Solitary Confinement is a type of rigorous punishment. It is a type of punishment in which the prisoner is kept in a cell where he is not able to maintain any kind of human contact with other inmates except the prison staff. The prisoner is isolated and the overall behavior of the prisoner is constantly monitored. There are several reasons due to which the prisoners are kept in solitary confinement. One of the major reasons for which a prisoner is kept in solitary confinement is disciplinary measures. Moreover, a prisoner can also be placed in solitary confinement if they are causing any kind of nuisance to other prisoners. It is a type of imprisonment that can be invoked in exceptional cases, of unparalleled brutality and atrocity. Solitary confinement harms the mental and physical health of the prisoner. In this blog, we are going to talk about the laws related to solitary confinement in India. We will also discuss various case laws before concluding whether solitary confinement is justified or not.
LAWS RELATED TO SOLITARY CONFINEMENT IN INDIA
The laws related to Solitary Confinement in India can be found in the Indian Penal Code of 1860 and the Prisoner Act 1894. Sec 73 of the IPC states that – “The court has the power to impose solitary confinement as a part of rigorous punishment but should not exceed 3 months as a whole”. This section further categorizes the sentence for solitary confinement according to the length of the sentence:
- The amount of time spent in solitary confinement cannot exceed one month if the total sentence is less than six months in jail.
- If the term is longer than six months but not more than a year, the time spent in solitary confinement may not exceed two months.
- The amount of time spent in solitary confinement cannot exceed three months for sentences of more than a year.
The Indian Penal Code’s Section 74 restricts solitary confinement by limiting the amount of time between instances of it. According to this clause, a respite between two periods of solitary confinement cannot be less than the allotted time and must not exceed 14 days. Similar to this, solitary confinement in sentences longer than three months shall be no more than seven days every month, and the time between two confinements must be at least the required amount of time. The Prisoners Act of 1894 additionally defines solitary confinement restrictions in Sections 29 and 30(2).
When a prisoner is placed in solitary confinement, Section 29 lays forth precise guidelines that must be followed by prison staff, including allowing visits from medical officers.
In the case of the death penalty, Section 30 (2) addresses solitary confinement and stipulates that the prisoner would be kept in a separate cell with a guard watching over them for 24 hours after receiving the final death sentence and having exhausted all legal avenues for appeal.
CASE LAWS RELATED TO SOLITARY CONFINEMENT IN INDIA
Various judgments have been given by the judiciary which have helped in protecting the rights of prisoners against Solitary Confinement. These judicial decisions play a crucial role in protecting the life of a prisoner against rigorous imprisonment. Some of the landmark cases related to solitary confinement are as follows:
Kishore Singh Ravinder Dev Etc. vs. State of Rajasthan is a landmark case in which the supreme court determined that keeping inmates in solitary confinement for a longer period is a blatant violation of Article 21 of the constitution. The “rarest of the rare case” should be the only circumstance in which this clause is applicable, not based on any flimsy justifications.
One important decision concerning the isolation of death row convicts is Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration. Prisoners’ rights were supported in this instance, and it was determined that being confined to a cell dehumanizes inmates. The Indian Constitution’s Article 21 is broken when a prisoner’s freedom of movement is restricted. Even applying Section 30(2) to prisoners on death row should wait until after they have exhausted all available legal options to contest their death sentence in court. In resolving future cases involving solitary confinement, this case set a crucial precedent.
In the case, Union of India v. Dharam Pal, the prisoner spent nearly 18 years of his more than 25-year incarceration in solitary confinement. In this instance, the Supreme Court determined that such confinement amounted to further punishment and was against the law.
The above-mentioned case laws are some of the most important case laws which mention the amendments that have been made in the laws related to Solitary Confinement based on judicial decisions.
The controversy surrounding the legality of solitary confinement is almost as ancient as the practice of using it as a punishment. As it breaches fundamental human rights, opponents of capital punishment claim that it is an inhumane, cruel, and the most excruciating punishment. As a result, in the case of Uttarakhand vs. Mehtab, Sushil, and Bhura, the Uttarakhand High Court issued a ruling and stated that it is against the constitution to retain a person in solitary confinement until his rights (constitutional, legal, and basic) have been fully exercised. This is in light of the growing trend towards its eradication. Solitary confinement is not a component of the penalty, the Bench argues, but rather is an extra punishment used by the jail officials. As soon as the death penalty is determined as the appropriate punishment, jail officials place the offender in isolation in solitary confinement, isolating him from any contact with other convicts. This technique was outlawed and declared unlawful by the court in the aforementioned case. The prisoner can be detained in solitary confinement for the least amount of time feasible, according to the court. The court argued that such treatment is barbarous and cruel, and breaches Articles 20(2) and 21 of the Indian Constitution since it results in excruciating pain and suffering. Therefore, after this judgment, the High Court ended the practice of keeping death row inmates in solitary confinement.
Solitary confinement is a cruel and harsh punishment that is frequently meted out to prisoners. Despite various limitations on its applicability, Sections 73 and 74 of the IPC still obliquely legalize solitary confinement. Similar to this, the Prisoners Act, of 1894, a centuries-old piece of colonial legislation, further fuels the flames by restricting the rights of those on death row. Despite these arbitrary solitary confinement laws and regulations, the judiciary was crucial in defending the convicts’ fundamental rights through its judgments. These judgments provide a path ahead for ensuring that the detainees’ fundamental human rights be upheld.
Author(s) Name: Sanskar Garg (Asian Law College, Noida)