My article is motivated by the life of Sarabjit Singh who was a farmer from Bhikhiwind in Tarn Taran district of Punjab and he was arrested by the Pakistani Rangers near Kasur at unmarked Indo-Pak border area in Pakistan in 1990.
Sarabjit was drunk and strayed over the border at
night. The arrest was basically of mistaken identity and was mistaken to be an
Indian Spy and because of a small mistake he has to spend 23 years in Pakistani
jail and died in the captivity.
He was tortured in the Pakistani Jail and
convicted for bomb blast in Lahore City of Pakistan as an Indian spy named as
Manjit Singh as main accused behind the bomb blast.
Sarabjit’s sister Dalbir Kaur fought the case for
23 years with his Pakistani lawyer Adv. Awais Shaikh and caught hold of real
Manjit Singh who actually did the blast. But before Sarabjit could have been
declared as innocent, he had been attacked in jail by Pakistani prisoners.
Sarabjit got seriously injured and admitted to the hospital where he succumbed
to his injuries on 2nd May, 2013.
Like Sarabjit there are thousands of prisoners in
India and neighboring countries who are innocents and waiting for justice from
the court but days are passing by and their families are living in distress
conditions, just waiting for justice.
Don’t you think 23 years in jail without any
crime or mistake is an injustice to Sarabjit and other similar prisoners? Who
will reimburse their time, money, missing moments with the family? Life of each
member of the family is ruined and destroyed over the time.
We have seen so many Civil and Criminal cases
which are going on from years by years without any justice or results. If we
analyze the whole process of judicial system then we come across that it’s not
only the population, not only the poverty, not only the police, not only the
lawyers, not only the judicial process, not only the corruption, not only the
law makers of the country responsible for this situation but everyone is
equally and directly involved in the contribution of delays and injustice, this
is the bitter truth.
Here, I will highlight few cases from the past
which is the perfect example of describing my point.
According to Article 21 of the Constitution,
right to speedy trial is a fundamental right of the prisoners. As in the case
of Hussainara Khatoon Vs. State of Bihar, large number of people were
behind bars for years awaiting trial in the court of law for trivial charge.
Even if offences were proved they would not have been charged for more than few
months but they have been kept in prison for around 10 years. Isn’t it painful?
Just think about it and ask yourself.
There are many instances where innocent people
are kept in custody, trialed, brutally tortured, and sometimes they die.
In the case of Ajab Singh Vs. State of Uttar
Pradesh, the court said that, “We do not appreciate the death of
persons in judicial custody. When such deaths occur, it is not only to the
public at large that those holding custody are responsible; they are
responsible also to the courts under whose orders they hold such custody.”
The Hon’ble Supreme Court expressed its concerned
as, “What faith can these lost souls have in the judicial system which
denies them a bare trial for so many years and keeps them behind the bars not
because they are guilty, but because they are too poor to afford bail and the
courts have no time to try them.”
In the case of D.K. Basu Vs. State of West
Bengal, the Court treating the letter addressed to the Chief justice as a
writ petition made the order as, “In almost every States there are
allegations and these allegations are now increasing in frequency of deaths in
custody described generally as lock-up deaths. At present there does not appear
to be any machinery to effectively deal with such allegations. Since this is an
all India question concerning all States, it is desirable to issue notices to
all the State Governments to find out whether they are desire to say anything
in the matter.”
According to National Crime Records Bureau
(NCRB), Ministry of Home Affairs 2015 reports, there are 1,401 jails
in the country with total capacity of 3,66,781 but total number of jail
inmates are 4,19,623 with Occupancy Rate of 114.4% and the most
surprising point is that total under-trials inmate percentage is 67.2%
i.e. 2,82,076 inmates which is very high. Here, we need to concentrate
and dig out the real cause and solution to make the process of trials faster,
much faster with delivery of justice.
As per latest report of World Prison
Population List, October 2015, more
than 10.35 million people are held in penal institutions throughout the
world, either as pre-trial detainees, remand prisoners or having been convicted
A prisoner when being imprisoned does not lose all the rights. They lose
only a part of the rights which are the necessary consequences of the
confinement and the rest of the rights are preserved. The prisoners are
protected by the rights guaranteed by the International Conventions and
Constitution of India, enacted by the legislatures like the Prisons Act 1894,
the Prisoners Act 1900.
The rights are protected and interpreted by the Judiciary like an inmate is
not ceased as a human being or cannot be treated as a slave or bounded labor,
even though the person is in prison, all protections and rights are guaranteed.
It is the responsibility of governments to protect the human rights proclaimed
by the declaration. Governments are to protect the life, liberty and security
of their citizens. They should guarantee that no one is enslaved and that no
one is subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention or to torture.
In the case of Parmanand Katara vs Union of India (1989) & others,
Supreme Court ruled that the state has an obligation to preserve life whether
he is an innocent person or a criminal liable to punishment under the law. With
specific reference to health, the right to conditions, adequate for the health
and well-being of all was already recognized in the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights (UDHR). The International Covenant on Economic, Social and
Cultural Rights (ICESR) states that prisoners have a right to the highest
attainable standard of physical and mental health.
Prisoners are more likely in a bad state of health when they enter prison,
and the unfavorable conditions therein worsen the health situation. Hence the
need for health care and treatments will often be greater in a prison than in
an outside community. Prisoners are known to be at a high risk for diseases
like Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), HIV / AIDS, Hepatitis B, C.
A study published in 2007 reported that in 20 countries, HIV prevalence
was more than 10% within prison populations. A study on the prevalence of
HIV in Indian Prisons revealed that 1.7% of male and 9.5% of female
inmates were HIV positive. This is significantly higher than the national HIV
prevalence of 0.32% in males and 0.22% in females.
The report on “Prevention of spread of HIV amongst vulnerable groups in
South Asia” from United Nations office on drug and crimes revealed that 63%
of prisoners in India had a history of drug abuse. Continuance of high risk
behaviors such as unprotected sex and substance abuse after release from prison
is also very common. Lack of conjugal life in prisons has also led to prisoners
engaging in male-to-male sexual acts. A study conducted in a North Indian jail
revealed that 28.8% were homosexual or
bi-sexual, 68% had multiple partners and 80.6% engaged in unprotected sex.
In the case of Sunil Batra v. Delhi
Administration. The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India gave a very obvious
answer to the question whether prisoners are persons and whether they are
entitled to fundamental rights while in custody, although there may be a
shrinkage in the fundamental rights. Supreme Court said;
“Are ‘prisoners’ persons? Yes, of course. To answer in the negative is to convict the nation and the Constitution of dehumanization and to repudiate the world legal order, which now recognizes rights of prisoners in the International Covenant on Prisoners’ Rights to which India has signed assent.” Here, delay in the justice, under trial prisoners; health and rights of convicted shall be protected and preserved. The system shall have to change. Justice should be delivered timely by considering the fundamental rights of the prisoners and considering prisoners as a person. Our Researchers, law makers, government and citizens of India have to stand up and take the challenge to analyze and reform the loop holes in the systems to establish a proper law to justify the prisoners to prison reform and penal reform and creating awareness among the prisoners.