Prisoners’ rights are set out in international covenants such as:

  • UN
  • UDHR

Following are the fundamental rights guaranteed under the constitution of India that protect prisoners rights:

  • Article 21 (Right to life),
  • Article 22(Protection Against arrest and detention),
  • Article 20 (Protection in respect of conviction of offences) along with the provisions under CrPc which deal with a fair and speedy trial, providing legal aid and a legal representative.

The rights of prisoner’s include:

  • conjugal rights,
  • right to health,
  • visiting rights,
  • childcare in prison,
  • procedural safeguards,
  • rights against solitary confinement,
  • handcuffing,
  • using bar fetters,
  • torture and custodial crimes including rape, execution of death sentence by public hanging.

In the case of Raghbir Singh v. the State of Haryana, the police had taken a few suspects into custody because of theft, during investigation they started torturing them to extract information. Due to this, a suspect died and the cause of death according to the medical investigator was convicted and was given a life sentence. The court held that custodial tortures

were violative of Article 21. In the case of Sheela Barse v. the State of Maharashtra, the petitioner complained about the custodial violation of women prisoner’s rights. The women were assaulted by the police. The court directed that there should be separate lock-ups for female suspects who should be guarded only by female constables and should be away from the male suspects who were detained. The interrogation of females was to be carried out in the presence of female police officers.

A writ petition was filed by Charles Sobhraj in, Charles Sobhraj v. Delhi Administration against the use of bar fetters. His grievance was that bar fetters were used for undertrial prisoners for an unlimited duration. The Judges visited the Tihar jail and saw Charles Sobhraj standing in chains in the yards with iron around his wrists, ankles and waist, they also saw those other undertrial prisoners were also in the same condition among them some were minor. The court said that nobody had the authority to put undertrial prisoners under bar fetters and it was a quasi-judicial decision. It was laid down that bar fetters could not be used beyond day time and prolonged continuation of bar fetters shall be with the approval of the Chief Judicial Magistrate or sessions judge. The court held that using bar fetters was a violation of the fundamental rights of such prisoner.