Provisions of Prisoners Right in India.

Written By: Shubhang Sharma

Edited By: Naimisa Madduri.


Since the beginning, the prison system has been a very sensitive topic to discuss. There are a number of prison systems in different nations and also, there are various kinds of ways to treat prisoners in other nations. The rights should be constitutionally protected at both the national and international levels and the liberty of the prisoners to claim all of the fundamental rights as the any other normal living citizen should be made available to them. The rights discussed here are very beneficial for all the prisoners living in jail in situations where they are ill-treated by the authorities of the jail. However, sometimes, some of the prisoners take the undue advantage of these situations because of these rights. In this article we will discuss about these rights and about some certain prison acts.


The constitution of India states that the fundamental rights which are availed by the citizens of India can be availed by all the prisoners during their imprisonment. In every country, the status of prisoners is very different from the status of a normal living citizen and that is the possible reason why the prisoners are usually not allowed to claim their rights as he/she is sentenced to necessary punishment and pay for his/her wrong deeds which was punishable in the eyes of laws. The Indian Constitution still has given some rights which are available to the prisoners and is given in the part III of the Indian Constitution; as these prisoners remain a person inside the jail. Further the Supreme Courts and various High Courts have passed decision on these.[1]

Historical Background

We know that the rights of the prisoners have been developed over the very long period of time. It was from the case of Platek v. Aderhold (USA) that the court ruled out that it has no power to interrupt in between the conduct of prison or its rules and regulations and in the case of the Johnson v. Avery where the court had recognised some of the very important rights of the prisoners.

In our country the judiciary has invoked all the Fundamental rights of the Constitution for the rescue and safeguarding of the prisoners in the Indian jail.

In the famous case of Charles Sobraj through the Marie Andre’s v. The Superintendent, Tihar Jail, the Judge of the Supreme Court held that the imprisonment does not end the meaning of fundamental rights but by a realistic reappraisal, the courts would later refuse to recognise the enjoyment of the rights mentioned in part (iii)  by a prisoner in jail.

Rights of Prisoners

Conviction of a person does not make him non-human. He still remains a human who should be treated like one. He/she must be given the basic human rights available to every other person living in a country, but at the same time, he should not be treated as a free person like others, with all absolute rights and luxuries. His freedom should be subject to certain limitations and legal restrictions. These types of restriction are reasonable on a person who has committed a wrong in the eyes of law.

The Supreme Court of India is planning along with the state and central government to improve the deteriorating conditions of the prisoners, caused because of the overcrowding of jails, lack of training experience, poor infrastructure, etc. This is why, it is mandatory to invoke the rights and constitutional safeguards of the prisoners. These rights must be implemented with proper care and attention of the authorities. In case these rights are used in wrong ways, the citizens of the country might loose faith in the criminal justice delivery system.[2]

Constitutional Rights available to the Prisoners

It is not possible to make available all the fundamental rights to the prisoners like the ordinary citizens, but the constitution has looked into this and made available some fundamental rights to the prisoners. These rights are given below: – 

Right to Equality: Article 14

This is one of the widest known and important provisions of the Indian Constitution which are generally most considered by the court. According to these, every state must consider every individual equal before law and equal protection must be given to all the individuals within the territory of India. The category of prisoners can be determined and classified by the court on the basis of the rule ‘likes should be treated alike’.

Right to Freedom has limitation: Article 19

There are six freedoms granted under this for all the citizen of India under Article 19 among which certain freedoms are, ‘freedom of movement’ within the territory of India, ‘freedom to reside and to settle peacefully’ and ‘freedom of profession’, occupation, trade or business. These cannot be enjoyed by the prisoners whereas, other freedoms like “freedom of speech and expression”, “freedom to become member of an association” etc., can be enjoyed by prisoners even when they are in the jail and the punishment given to them has nothing to do with these freedoms and this freedom will be subjected to the limitations of prison laws.

Protection against Conviction of offences: Article 20

There must be no conviction of any of the offences except for the violation of law in force at the time of commission of the act under which the offence is charged and there should be no penalty implied on the prisoner greater than that which might have been inflicted under the law in force at the time of the commission of the offence.[3]

There is restriction on legislature to implement any criminal law which means if an act which is not an offence at the time of its commission it cannot be an offence at the date subsequent to its commission.

Prohibition again Self Incrimination: Article 20(3)

There is a basic rule under Article 20(3) that no person who is accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.  In simple words it means in criminal law that the accused is innocent unless the contrary is proved. The protection available under the Article 20(3) is in case of compulsion not in case where the accused himself presents the evidence on request.

Scope of Right to life and Personal Liberty: Article 21

Right to liberty has been given a very wide reputation by the Supreme Court. This right is available not only for ordinary people but it is even for those who are behind the bars. The rights like right against torture, and right against inhuman, speedy trial, free legal aids, and degrading treatment accompany a person into the prison also.

Article 21 says that in the Indian Constitution has been majorly the centre of litigation so far as prisoner rights are concerned. This provision is used by the Supreme Court in the Maneka Gandhi case against the arbitrary action of the executive especially the prison authorities. In this case, the Supreme Court of India had passed a judgement that there must be a fair and reasonable procedure for deprivation of life and personal liberty of the individuals. [4]

Scope for Right to education for prisoners

There has been a lot of changes and transformation in the reforms in India; it has brought this facility to all the detained and imprisoned persons that they ask for their right to education which can be made available to them. This reform has been made compulsory for education facility for women and youth and is important so that they can improve their personalities while in the jail. Education to prisoners will still be compulsory after they get out from jail. The state must educate all young as well as older offenders and must take it as a necessary step which should be duly taken and implemented.

Right of Person under Arrest and Detention: Article 22(1)

This article states that no person can be denied of his right to consultation and to be get defended by any legal practitioner. If an accused is undefended, it will be the duty of the court to provide a legal practitioner to the accused the cost bore by the government. In the case of Dharmvir vs State of Uttar Pradesh, the Supreme Court directed the government to allow the family members to meet the prisoners and allow the prisoners to meet their families at least once  a year.

Right to be Produced before Magistrate: Article 22(2)

 Any individual person whether man or woman who has been arrested has the right under which he/she must be produced before the magistrate within 24 hours of the arrest, after excluding the time to travel from the place of the arrest to the court of the magistrate. Whereas, no person shall be kept in the custody for a period of 24 hours without the authority of the magistrate. This provision is applicable only in case where a person is arrested and accused of any offence while, there is no application when such person has been guilty of the offence and detained in pursuance of the conviction.

Right to Constitutional Remedies: Article 32

These remedies are available to all the prisoners,who are deprived of their rights by the officials, under this article 226 before high court and under article 32 before Supreme court.

Article 32

This article states that the orders and writs are issued by the Supreme Court and these writs are in nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari, for the enforcement of these rights in part III of the Indian Constitution.

Some of the Cases related to Rights of Prisoners

Ramamurthy vs. State of Karnataka (1996) case describes about the need for Prisoner’s Human Rights in Prisons. This article investigates the case between Ramamurthy and State of Karnataka with reference to the prisoner’s human rights. The Ramamurthy vs. State of Karnataka (1996) case, the Supreme Court has identified some issues:- unfair wages, ill-treatment of prisoners, overcrowded prisons, , torture, no health and hygiene, inadequate clothing, delayed trials, insubstantial food and no communication with family. These are some issues which have been raised and how to overcome them is what has been discussed in the case. [5]

The case of Sunil Batra (1) v. Delhi Administration and Charles Sobraj vs The Superintendent, Central Jail was somewhat similar to the case mentioned here. The power to express invoked earlier when Sunil Batra wrote a letter to the Hon’ble Judge of this court from Tihar Jail, Delhi. The judgment in this case and Charles Sobraj, discussed the management of jails and the rights of prisoners. This report aims to provide an understanding of the Prisoners’ Rights and the required amendments which could bring positive results during the trails of prisoners by exploring ways in which respect could be brought in the prison environment.[6]

In the case of the State of Andhra Pradesh v. Challa Ramkrishna Reddy, the court said that a prisoner is entitled to all of the fundamental rights unless in some cases it is curtailed by the constitution.


The Indian prison behind bars is not beyond justice. Prisons should be equipped with learning facilities for prisoners where they should be taught new things, prisons should be equipped with mental and physical development exercises as they will contribute to reform the prisoner and this is what our society wants to happen with prisoners. A prison should be a place where a guilty person should be taught how to improve and reform his thinking. A prison should not be a place for torture to the prisoners. Various problems like overcrowding, sanitation, lack of police force, lack of teaching should be tackled to improve the condition of Indian jails.


[2] Akhil Agnihotri, Prisoners Rights and Constitutional Safeguards, Vol. 8, 2020, agm.j-2416.14-f.pdf




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