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Saturday, July 24, 2021

Criminals’ stay in quasi solitary custody for 22 hours illegal: Punjab and Haryana high court | Chandigarh News


CHANDIGARH: The Punjab and Haryana high court has held that confining hardcore criminals in a cell for 22-hours in a day and releasing them only for two hours is “impermissible and illegal” and added that a prisoner remains a person and cannot be reduced to an animal-like existence.
“The quasi-solitary confinement is held to be illegal and violative of the rights guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution… Such treatment completely discards the rehabilitative aspect of the punishment, which is a major component in the philosophy of sentencing in every developed society,” observed the high court and directed the prison authorities in Punjab to change their current practice.
Justice Sudhir Mittal passed these orders while hearing a bunch of petitions filed by several jail inmates confined in Punjab’s Bathinda jail. The HC took up the petition filed by dreaded gangster Chandan, alias Chandu, who has been confined in Bathinda jail and challenged his solitary confinement for violation of his right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. On its part, Punjab informed the HC that various directions have been issued for the maintenance of discipline and control in the jails. These directions are legal and valid, it added.
HC asks Punjab to apprise it of latest confinement measures
Narrating details of several riots inside the state jails, Punjab informed the HC that it held meetings on December15, 2020 and February 23, 2021, in which it was decided to adopt greater security measures and shift 42 hardcore or notorious prisoners to Bathinda Central Jail.
After hearing both the parties the HC sought a report about the situation in jail and found that each of the petitioners is being confined in a separate cell for 22 hours daily and is released from respective cells for one hour in the forenoon and one hour in the evening.
The high court also found that an inmate is confined in the first part of the cell from sunset to sunrise and for the remaining part of the day, except for two hours, in the second part of the cell. For all this period, he has no company except for the odd prison staff who comes by on rounds. The prisoner is not able to see any other human being and thus, conversation with fellow beings is out of the question. There is no facility of a common mess. Except for one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening, the inmate is all by himself with his solitude and there is no limit on this.
“Such confinement is not strictly solitary confinement but can be called quasi-solitary because the inmate is deprived of the human company for extended lengths of time and such confinement has been held to be extremely harsh and violative of basic human rights which remain the entitlement of every prisoner,” observed the HC and added that it could not be justified even on grounds of maintenance of discipline and order and curtailment of crime.
“The prison administration can surely come up with suggestions which would make the custody conform to the law of the land while meeting the security concerns. For example, the identified prisoners could be housed in separate barracks instead of cells where provision is also made for messing. Members of rival gangs could be confined in different barracks and the system of staggered lockouts could be retained. Confinement to cells is restricted from sunset to sunrise and the period of lockouts be increased, however, within the confines of high-security zones. The final decision, of course, would rest with the prison administration, but is always open to judicial scrutiny,” added the HC.
Adjourning the matter for July 19, the HC has asked Punjab to inform it about the fresh measures it intended to adopt on the issue.





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