Delhi Govt Sets Off Process to Allow Conjugal Visits in Prisons

Conjugal visitation away from the prying eyes of prison officials is a “fundamental right”, a petition filed in the Delhi High Court has said.

With many countries allowing such visits, the Delhi government told the Delhi High Court the Director General of Prisons has forwarded to the state’s home department a proposal about the rights of prisoners to seek conjugal visits.

The city government has said the proposal will also be forwarded to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs for issuing necessary instructions.

A bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Sanjeev Narula granted the city government six weeks to apprise it of the developments that follow its recommendation.

The high court listed the matter for further hearing on January 15 next year.

The bench was hearing a petition by advocate Amit Sahni seeking directions to the Delhi government and DG (Prisons) to make necessary arrangement in jails for conjugal visits by spouses of prisoners.

The public interest litigation (PIL) had prompted the high court to issue notice to the authorities concerned in May 2019. The PIL wanted the court to set aside the state’s prison rule that mandates the presence of a jail officer when a prisoner is meeting his or her spouse. It also urged the court to declare conjugal visit a “fundamental right” of a prisoner.

During a recent hearing, Delhi government’s additional standing counsel Anuj Aggarwal said a proposal has been forwarded by the DG (Prisons) to the state’s home department “after due consideration” of the right of prisoners seeking conjugal visits.

The petition says despite most prisoners being in the “sexually active” age bracket they were denied conjugal visitation.

“Despite courts taking a progressive approach and various countries allowing conjugal visits considering it an important human right and also in the light of studies backing conjugal visits as a factor to cut down crimes in jail and reform the inmates, the Delhi Prison Rules, 2018 are totally silent on the issue,” it said.

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The petition said prisoners cannot be denied private meetings with a spouse on grounds of existing provisions of parole and furlough in the Indian penal system, and added that these were anyway not available to undertrial inmates.

It said conjugal visits not only ensure enforcement of the fundamental human rights of those incarcerated but also their spouses who suffer without having done any wrong.

“One should not overlook the plight of the spouse of those incarcerated who suffer the punishment of denial of conjugal relationship without having done any wrong,” the petition said.

It said various research have shown conjugal visits reduce frequency of prison riots, sexual crimes and homosexual conduct while moving prisoners towards reformation and good behaviour.

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