Delhi HC Seeks Centre’s Stand on Plea Against Solitary Confinement of Jail Inmates

The Delhi High Court sought the Centre’s stand on Tuesday on a petition against solitary confinement of prison inmates.

A bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad issued a notice on the public interest litigation (PIL) matter filed by lawyer Harsh Vibhore Singhal and granted six weeks’ time to the Centre’s counsel to seek instructions.

The petition has challenged several provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Prisons Act relating to solitary confinement of prisoners on the ground that those are in violation of the Constitution.

The plea says solitary confinement is a “measure of extreme brutality and depravity’, is “dehumanising” and destroys any hope of reformation and rehabilitation.

It is claimed that although solitary confinement can be given in the rarest of rare cases and with a prior judicial approval, jail authorities “routinely use” it to “extract acquiescence and obeisance, without judicial oversight and for ingratiating their corrupt needs, taking advantage of inmates”.

“Solitary confinement that completely cuts off a prisoner from society of others is barbaric, exacerbates his psychological makeup and worsens his health instead of ameliorating,” the plea says.

“Solitary confinement is additional punishment and exacerbation of rigorous imprisonment (RI) and an arbitrary judicial and police power with no nexus with sentence. Legislature does not intend awarding solitary along with RI. No penal section contains any provision for also punishing by order for solitary in addition to RI,” the plea says.

The petitioner has argued that protection of fundamental rights under articles 14, 19(1)(a), 20(2) and 21 of the Constitution and solitary confinement are polar opposites.

The petitioner has prayed for directions to authorities to ensure that each state constitutes an independent prison punishment board to give recommendations for the solitary segregation of any inmate, which would form the basis of any reference to a court of appropriate jurisdiction for sanction for punishment for solitary segregation.

The matter would be heard next on May 23.

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