Rights of a prisoner and problems faced by them

We all know that whether it is India or any other state the rights of the prisoner is nowadays a major concern because a lot of inmates have to suffer various assaults and brutality while they are punished for the crime committed. The inmates go through alot of mental and physical trauma inside jails which is a major concern as it leads to their human rights violation.

Now before discussing it further we have to know who is a prisoner and why they are supposed to get protection from any type of assault or brutality in the cell?

Who is a Prisoner?

Prisoner in simple term means a person who is in custody without his or her free will or we can say that the person whose liberty was taken away without his or her free will.

Prisoner according to the Prison Act, 1894 is defined as-

According to Prison Act, 1894 there are two types of prisoners –

  1. Civil prisoner –  Any person who is not a criminal prisoner
  2. Criminal prisoner –criminal prisoner means any prisoner duly committed to custody under the writ, warrant or order of any Court or authority exercising criminal jurisdiction, or by order of a Court-martial .
Rights of a prisoner and problems faced by them

Objective of rights of Prisoners

To grant prisoners rights is always a matter of debate when some of the people argue that the rights of prisoners are important and they have to be treated equally while on the other hand some of the people are against prisoner’s rights because they have a thinking that if someone has committed a crime they deserve to be punished and be sentenced to a viable punishment and their rights should hence be taken away.

But according to courts everyone should be vested with basic rights. Not only courts, but also ancient shastras supported this thought. In our ancient shastras there is a reference to kill the sin not the sinner. Hence, the perpetrator should be sentenced with punishment for the reason so that he can repent his sin .

Historical background of rights of prisoners

The development of the prisoners’ rights started taking place from the time of Britisher’s rule. Hence, the barbaric punishments given by the kings have now reformed into correctional methods. Similarly, the custody is now turned into the care and correctional cells. Since the Indian democratic government came into force they started forming committees for the same.

Committees for Prison Reforms

let us discuss about some of the previous and recent committees which were formed for the development of prisons and to bring a reform in the rights of prisoners.

  1. 1980 Mulla Committee for jail reform which was headed by justice A.N Mulla. The main aim to form this committee was to take into consideration the rights of the rehabilitating offenders .
  2. The recent one was when in 2018 the Supreme Court formed a committee to reform the prisoner rights. The committee was headed by Amitava Roy to examine the various problems faced by the inmates in the cell. The main objective to form this committee was overcrowded cells, unnatural deaths and many more .
  3. Justice V.R. Krishnan Iyer Committee on women prison reforms.

The main problems involved with the infringement of rights are :-

When we are talking about  the rights  of the person than we should also be aware of the problems faced by the Indian jail inmates and at last we will talk about that how can we tackle these problems:

  1. Overcrowded Prisons
  2. Exploitation faced by inmates.
  3. Many prisoners  are behind the bars for years and are waiting for the trial, the inrodinate delay for undertrial prisoners is a huge problem.
  4. Many prisoners are still behind bars even after completion of their jail term.
  5. Many prisoners have serious health issues which are neglected by prison officers.
  6. Many prisoners undergo physical and mental torture and brutality of the prison officers.
Rights of a prisoner and problems faced by them

Prisoners and their rights

Now we will discussed about what type of rights  are related with the prisoners.

  1.  Right to vote and the prisoners – Recently the PIL was filed in Delhi High Court regarding the right to vote  to prisoners which was rejected by the High Court bench constituting of Justices D.N PATEL and Harishankar on the ground that right to vote according to the Representation of People’s Act is subject to some restrictions .
  2. Constitution and prisoners – There are various rights in the constitution of India which  guarantees to the prisoners right to legal aid , right  to equality before the law but if there are some restrictions that have to be there in order to provide proper punishment .
  3. Also there is Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 which provided that no one should be subjected to torture and cruel treatment .
Rights of a prisoner and problems faced by them

Landmark Precedents

Sunil Batra vs Delhi Administration on 20 December, 1979 1980 AIR 1579, 1980 SCR (2) 557

District magistrate or the court have to  nominate lawyers so that prisoners can file their grievances and complaints to them also district magistrate and sessions judge have to visit  the jail complex on periodical basis and also file a report for the same in the high court.

Hussainara Khatoon and Others

In this case the issue raised was that the condition of undertrial prisoners is not so good in the jail. They have to undergo jail term for a period more than there original term therefore, the writ petition was filed for the same and the court took cognizance  of offence and also mentioned 6 months of investigation of the prisoners and if they fail they have to file the reason for the same .

Prem Shankar Shukla v. Delhi Administration 1980 AIR 1535, 1980 SCR (3) 855

Various regulation regarding handcuffing: No accussed should be handcuffed as everyone has a right to live a life with dignity whether he is poor or rich they have to be handcuffed only when the accused is likely to escape or to spread violence


The condition of prisoners in India is not so good there are various reasons behind it, the main reasons are that the conditions of cells are not so good and also at some districts there is no proper courts to deal with the matter therefore in my opinion there is a need for strict guidelines to maintain the condition inside the jail it is not only in India it is in every state that the prisoners have to face assaults. A popular Political Activist Mumia Abu Jammal quoted that, “Prison is a second by second assault on the soul a day to day degredation of the self, an oppressive steel and brick umbrella that transfers seconds into the hours and hours into the days”.

Everyone who is inside the jail is a criminal and his punishment is sentenced by the court now no one have a right to mistreat  the prisoners only because he did something wrong you cannot assault the prisoner or any person only because he did something which is wrong or we can say against the  law. Most of the people are of the opinion that prisoners don’t deserve to be treated equally but just for a minute think about the person who becomes the target of some conspiracy or is wrongfully accused. Prison should be a place to let the accused reform in a positive way and not become a hardened criminal once out of the jail.