Prisoner rights in India as per the Constitution

When a person commits a crime, he is held in prison as a punishment for the crime he committed. A person deprived of his personal liberty either by confinement, captivity, or forcible restraint is known as a prisoner, inmate or detainee.

Although the offenders are kept away from the general public as a punishment, that does not mean they can be treated as animals. Hence, the prisoners are guaranteed certain legal rights, which cannot be infringed upon or taken away under any circumstance.

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This law note helps you understand the important rights of all prisoners as per the Constitution of India.

Rights of a Prisoner in India

Prisoner rights are concerned with the rights of inmates when they are imprisoned. Prisoners are guaranteed certain fundamental legal rights, which cannot be infringed. These rights include the right to food and water, legal representation in court, and freedom from torture, physical harm, and racial discrimination. In addition to that, here are some other important rights of an Indian prisoner.

1. Right to Equality (But With Classification)

Article 14 of the Indian Constitution included the idea of appropriate classification and the idea that all prisoners should be treated equally. However, this Article gives prison officials a basis for classifying prisoners into different categories with the goal of reformation. In other words, it simply means that prisoners can be classified.

For example, those who have committed harsh crimes need to be separated from those who are either innocent or are under trial. But, this classification does not mean that prison officials will treat those who committed brutal crimes harshly. Every prisoner has to be treated equally. This is what Article 14 provides.

2. Right to Freedom

The Indian Constitution grants its citizens six freedoms, some of which are not available to inmates.

For example, prisoners cannot enjoy the freedom to move, the freedom to reside and work anywhere, and the freedom to practise any profession. However, all the other freedoms conferred under Article 19 of the Constitution are available to prisoners.

3. Right to Life

Article 21 of the Indian Constitution deals with the right to life and personal liberty. Along with all the citizens of the country, the prisoners also have the right to life and personal liberty guaranteed by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

Note: This obviously changes if a prisoner is later awarded a death sentence by due course of law.

4. Right Against Double Jeopardy

Article 20 of the Indian Constitution deals with two issues. First, it forbids double jeopardy, whereby a person cannot be charged and convicted of the same crime twice. And second, it forbids self-incrimination, meaning no one can be forced to testify against themselves.

5. Right to Appear Before Magistrate

According to Article 22 of the Indian Constitution, a person must be brought before a magistrate within 24 hours after arrest and be given access to a lawyer of their choice.

6. Right Against Solitary Confinement

Solitary confinement means isolating the prisoner from any contact or interaction with the outside world. The court ruled that this punishment should be used only in circumstances when it is evident that the prisoner is so violent or dangerous that his separation is necessary.

7. Right to Live With Human Dignity

The Constitution guarantees everyone the right to live with dignity. Since the mere conviction of the offender does not make them inhumane, the inmates are also granted this privilege of the right to live with human dignity.

8. Right to Health and Medical Treatment

The prisoners also have the right to attend to the highest possible level of bodily and mental health.

9. Right to a Speedy Trial

Regardless of the offence for which a person is imprisoned, every prisoner has a right to a speedy trial. An accused person must be subjected to speedy trials either to punish him for the crime committed by him or, if not proven guilty, to acquit him of it.

10. Right Against Custodial Violence

The prisoners are protected from all forms of physical or verbal abuse while held in custody. A person who has been tortured while in custody has the right to move to court by filing a writ petition immediately to preserve his fundamental rights.

Further, prisoners are protected against any type of cruel or inhuman treatment. The court forbade using tools like handcuffs, chains, irons and straitjackets to punish the detainees.

Read Next: Rights of Victims Under the Criminal Procedure Code

Subhashini Parihar
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