According to creator all men are born equal and are endowed with some basic rights. Some of these rights are right to life and liberty which are the most basic rights but important one. If any person doesn’t comply with ethics of the society then that person is deprived of these rights with appropriate punishments. It is believed by many experts that the main objective of prisons is to bring the offenders back to the mainstream of the society. Various workshops had been organised by the State Government in collaboration with Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s) to bring reforms in the current prison systems. In recent year it was seen that the condition of Indian jails got worse even after time to time guidelines provided to state.
In one of the landmark judgements which will improve prison conditions and helps in setting up mechanisms to lower the number of unnatural deaths in prisons and also compensate families of the deceased, the Supreme Court has directed the chief justices of high courts to register a suo motu public interest petition to identify the next of kin of the prisoners who have admittedly died an unnatural death, as revealed by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) between 2012 and 2015, and to “award suitable compensation” in case it has not been paid.
Some of the important guidelines by Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta on prison reforms
- Prisoners must get more access to their families and lawyer
The Bench after realising the importance of interaction between prisoner and their families and their lawyer said “visits to prison by the family of a prisoner should be encouraged” and noted that “it would be better if there is scope of extending the time or frequency of meetings and also explore the possibility of video conferencing for communications between a prisoner and family members of that prisoner, also between a prisoner and the lawyer.”
- Medical facilities in prisons do not meet minimum standards
While in a report it has been found that in Karnataka, West Bengal and Delhi “the medical facilities in prisons do not meet minimum standards of care,” the court was in a view that this is an indication that the human right to health is not given adequate importance in prisons and that may also be one of the causes of unnatural deaths in prisons.
Providing medical assistance and facilities to inmates in prisons is necessary as the right to health is undoubtedly a human right, the court said all state governments should concentrate on making this a reality for all, including prisoners. It also directed all state governments to study the availability of medical assistance to prisoners and take remedial steps wherever necessary.
- Establishment of open jails or open prison
It has also directed that the establishment of ‘open jails’ or ‘open prisons’ be considered and in this respect noted that the experiment was a success in Shimla (Himachal Pradesh) and Rajasthan and at the semi-open prison in Delhi.
- Juvenile care must be given higher priority
Further court has also directed the Ministry of Women and Child Development, which is concerned with the implementation of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, to formulate by December 31 procedures for tabulating the number of children who suffer an unnatural death in childcare institutions where they are kept in custody either because they are in conflict with the law or because they need care and protection. It is also directed to the respective High Court Bench hearing the suo motu PIL as per its directions to “pass necessary orders and directions” in case of any difficulty.