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Written by: Shikha Singh (Intern)

Edited by: Anubhav Yadav (Content Head & Developer)

Whenever a crime or any overt act takes place in the social set up we hear a lot about the trial and conviction of the person being accused. If the accused is exonerated from the mentioned offense, he or she is permitted to be back and part of society and is expected to serve as a law-abiding citizen of the nation. Coming to the other group of accused people who after undergoing a long trial are convicted for the stated offense and are granted jail time for acting against the established order of society. These groups of accused and fairly-convicted people are prisoners. We seldom talk about the rights and claims of prisoners. The prisoners too are provided with some fundamental rights like right to food and water, right to have attorney, protection from life threatening acts like torture etc.

Law being a dynamic domain and witnessing evolution ever since it came into existence takes into consideration the changing nature of the society. Similarly, many new forms of prisoner’s rights too came into existence, like last year while hearing a matter (Maaysha Singh v. State of Maharashtra & Anr) The Bombay High Court held that the prisoners have right to medical records under the constitutional art. 21.

International Statues for Prisoners

International Human Rights Law provides protection against the racial discrimination and torture, UN charter provides for the fundamental guidelines to deal with prisoners covered by General Assembly resolution. These are followed by some mentions in the UN Conventions Bill of Rights as well. In India as well we have a different act dealing with the rights of prisoners like the Prisoner’s Act 1990 and the Transfer of Prisoners Act as well. Some landmark cases also covered the issue out of which the most significant is Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration 1980 AIR 1579, 1980 SCR (2) 557 discussing the usage of Habeas Corpus. There was a landmark case named Francis Coralie Mulin vs. the Administrator, Delhi, where the court held that it is important to respect the rights that are fundamental even in the case of the one convicted. Later the scope of the rights evolved and eventually included conjugal set-ups too.

Recent Issue: Convict’s Conjugal Relationship Permitted Exclusively In Exceptions

Ideally the Madras High Court observed that the petitioners don’t have any sort of conjugal rights available at their disposal but also added an exception. In the inception of the argument the court held that if the aforementioned rights were available to the prisoners, the line of distinction between a law-abiding citizen and a convicted man would be blurred to a larger extent. The exception which could be taken into consideration is fertility treatment. The process of fertility treatment is done to enhance the hormones to restore the required level of hormones. A division bench comprising of three judges, Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari, Justice Pushpa Sathyanarayana and Justice P.D Audikesavalu who upheld the very idea that depriving a prisoner from conjugal set up for specific purpose may be in contravention with Art 21 of Constitution. This was in response to a petition brought in notice of the bench by the convict’s wife seeking a temporary grant to have conjugal relationship. Hearing the petition, the court granted a temporary relief to the convict to participate in the conjugal relationship.

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