Every living being is born free and has equal rights; no one including prisoners, shall not be subjected to torture or cruelty. Prisoners are also human beings and have a right to an adequate standard of living, including food, drinking water, accommodation, clothing and bedding. During British rule in India the prisons act, 1894 was present, but the rights were continuously breached as there was a prejudiced difference in treatment of the white versus native prisoners. After independence, the forefathers of the Indian constitution gave certain rights to prisoners in part 3 due to the fact that a prisoner always remains a human.


In part 3 of the Indian constitution, Article 14(6) provides the basis for prison authorities to determine various categories of prisoners and their classification with the object of reformation. All the basic rights of prisoners include the right to food and water; protection from violence and torture; right to have a legal representative. Article 19, which states that the freedom rights of the citizens, but with certain expectations that includes the restriction on certain rights of prisoners as they are convicted. The most important, Articles 20 and 21 that deal with the rights of prisoners in particular. Article 20 of the constitution of India has implied Right which is a right against custodial violence. It is the most authoritarian violation of the appanages of an existent. The methods to torture an individual to gain information are rehearsed by police officials on a diurnal basis and these acts are an immediate violation of this article.

Honourable courts of India have dive into the ocean of Article 21 of Indian constitution and has brought some paramount rights for prisoners such as, In the case of Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration, where held that the right of prisoners to be visited by their family and relatives, in order to save them from mental torture and from here the right of mental health for prisoners are upheld. Every person has a right, and it cannot be taken even by the authority of the state to violate their rights which are guaranteed under Article 21. In the context of the right to personal liberty, state of Maharashtra v. Prabhakar Pandurang held that a prisoner has a right to express their feelings by writing and can also publish that. Next right is to pay reasonable wages to prisoners for the work they have done during the imprisonment and this has been done for the purpose of making self-supporting lives after their release, in many precedents such as Mahammad Giasuddin v. state of A.P, People’s Union for Democratic Rights v. Union of India, state of Gujarat v. Hon’ble High Court of Gujarat and Gurdev Singh v. State Himachal Pradesh. In order to be precise, it was held that remuneration, should not be lower than the minimal stipend, has to be paid to anyone who has been asked to give labour or service by the state. The payment has to be original to the service rendered; otherwise, it Would be considered forced labour. In article 21, it was held that the right to speedy trial is one of the most important rights, in the landmark judgement Hussainara Khatoon v. state of Bihar it was upheld that the Court while dealing with the cases of undertrials who had underwent lengthy confinement held that a process which keeps similar considerable number of people behind bars without trial so long cannot conceivably be regarded as reasonable, just or fair so as to be in conformity with the demand of Article 21.There are many people who do not get justice only because of not having sources and money. This problem has given birth to a solution named the right to legal aid. Legal aid is no longer a matter of charity or benevolence, but is one of constitutional rights. Article 142, which is read with other two articles 21 and 39-A of the Constitution states the right to get free legal aid.


Since 2020, a new period of coronavirus, every sector has faced some sort of problems during the pandemic. Many prisoners were languishing in jail, due to overcrowding and lack of proper healthcare, and because of this official of prisons were struggling to prevent the mass contagion among inmates and staff, even as thousands fell ill and many died.[1]Despite the promise of article 21, that no person shall be denied life or liberty except by due process of law.[2]

In addition, during the pandemic Court visits were suspended, Lawyers were not allowed to visit their clients in person and Prison visits were stopped, despite the fact that families and visitors were fully vaccinated. On the one hand, where every person was vaccinating free of cost outside the world of jail; on another hand prisoners were struggling to get vaccinated as prisons have not completed vaccination programmes and conditions have worsened as occupancy rates increase. Another major problem is the person being detained without a sentence. It is a very shocking fact that Pre-trial prisoners in India constitute most of the prison population in India and suffer the most as they are not sentenced till now but are suffering rigorous punishment in prison and that highlighted the need for speedy trial.


 A right delayed is a right denied.”

                                              – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Every human being is born free, and every person deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect. The Indian constitution has recognized the rights of prisoners, especially under the ambit of Article 21. The judiciary itself has interpreted beautifully and upheld the rights. Now the need is to follow those rules and regulations, implement those laws wisely so that the motive of justice can be achieved, and a high need to reduce the burden of courts by speedy trials and a requirement of specialised authority to look over the implementation and working in prisons.

Author’s Name: Khushi Goel (Maharaja Agrasen Institute of management studies, IP University)

[1] The Indian Express <> accessed on 4th march,2022

[2] Indian express Editorial <> accessed o 4th March,2022

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