The law on the rights of prisoners has been an evolving one. It is a matter of utmost shame that a country like India doesn’t have codified law on the rights of prisoners. There is also no comprehensive legislation to deal with prisoner’s rights and regulate their conduct while in jail. However, the judiciary of the country has given due recognition to the convicts and held their fundamental rights time and time again. In the absence of thorough legislation, it has managed to set precedents and principles upholding the various rights of prisoners that not only guide but also bind all the courts in India.


The Supreme Court in the landmark case of Union of India v. V. Sriharan, declared that the sentences in which the court orders that the convicted persons should spend the whole life or at least a minimum number of years behind bars and puts those terms beyond the scope of remission by the government, are valid sentences, but only the Supreme Court and High Courts would have the power to order such terms.

Historical background

As mentioned earlier, the rights of the prisoners have been a developing one. In the Indian sphere, the judiciary of the country has invoked Fundamental Rights of the Constitution repeatedly to the rescue of the prisoners. In the famous case of Charles Sobraj through Marie Andre’s v. The Superintendent, Tihar Jail, the Supreme Court Judge Justice Krishna Aiyer held that:

“..imprisonment does not spell farewell to fundamental rights although, by a realistic re-appraisal, Courts will refuse to recognize the full panoply of Part III enjoyed by a free citizen”. 

He further stated that the imprisonment of a prisoner is not merely retribution or deterrence but also rehabilitation.

Treatment to prisoners

Prisoners are some of the worst victims of the violation of fundamental rights. We should not treat him as a free man with all absolute rights and luxuries. His freedom should be subject to certain limitations and legal restrictions. These restrictions, in addition, should be reasonable. Over the past 30 years; the Supreme Court of India has reiterated the Principle “imprisonment does not spell farewell to fundamental rights”. Thus, the Court has cordially declared that for a prisoner the fundamental rights are an enforceable reality, though restricted by the fact of imprisonment.

Rights of prisoners

The following rights of prisoners have been recognized under the various Indian laws governing prisons, for instance, the Prisoners Act, 1900Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920Transfer of Prisoners Act, 1950; and several other, etc. by the Supreme Court and High Court rulings as well as those recommended by Expert Committees.

  • Right get lodged appropriately based on proper classification.
  • Special right of young prisoners should gets segregated from adult prisoners.
  • Rights of women prisoners,
  • Right to a healthy environment and timely medical services,
  • Right to bail, Section 436-A of the Criminal Procedure Code;  lays down the right of an under trial to apply for bail once he/she has served one-half of the maximum term of the sentence; he/she would have served had he/she been convicted. The section further lays down what the court may order on a bail application filed under this section on hearing the public prosecutor.
  • Right to a speedy trial.
  • Right to free legal services.
  • Right to have interviews with one’s lawyer.
  • Right to protection against forceful sexual activities.
  • Right against the arbitrary use of handcuffs and fetters.


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