Soli­tary Con­fine­ment

Alive - - Contemplation -

In a land­mark judg­ment with far reach­ing con­se­quences that will ben­e­fit those pris­on­ers who are kept in soli­tary con­fine­ment, the Ut­tarak­hand High Court de­liv­ered a land­mark judg­ment in the case of State of Ut­tarak­hand vs. 1. Me­htab s/o Tahir Has­san 2. Sushil @Bhura s/o Gu­lab Singh Crim­i­nal Ref­er­ence No. 1 of 2014 on April 27, 2018 in 99 pages wherein it held that the prac­tice to keep the con­vict in cus­to­dial seg­re­ga­tion/soli­tary con­fine­ment be­fore the ex­haus­tion of his con­sti­tu­tional, le­gal and fun­da­men­tal rights is un­con­sti­tu­tional.

It thus abol­ished the prac­tice of keep­ing death row con­victs in iso­la­tion im­me­di­ately af­ter the sen­tence is pro­nounced, adding that soli­tary con­fine­ment was an “an­ar­chic and cruel prac­tice which amounts to tor­ture and can cause im­mense pain, agony and anx­i­ety” to in­mates. I am sure that this land­mark judg­ment will re­ceive ut­most re­spect not just from lower courts and high courts but also from Supreme Court which is the top court in our coun­try! This land­mark judg­ment must be stud­ied by ev­ery per­son who has even the slight­est of in­ter­est in law and le­gal re­forms.

The Ut­tarak­hand High Court in an ex­em­plary and land­mark judg­ment has very rightly held in para 99 that, “This prac­tice to keep the con­vict in cus­to­dial seg­re­ga­tion/soli­tary con­fine­ment be­fore the ex­haus­tion of his con­sti­tu­tional, le­gal and fun­da­men­tal rights is with­out au­thor­ity of law. It will amount to ad­di­tional pun­ish­ment. It also amounts to tor­ture and vi­ola­tive of his ba­sic hu­man rights.” The Bench of Ut­tarak­hand High Court com­pris­ing of Jus­tice Ra­jiv Sharma and Jus­tice Alok Singh com­mend­ably held in para 100 of the land­mark judg­ment that, “Ac­cord­ingly, we abol­ish the prac­tice adopted by the jail au­thor­i­ties, by seg­re­gat­ing a con­vict sen­tenced to death, im­me­di­ately af­ter the con­fir­ma­tion of sen­tence by the High Court, be­ing un­con­sti­tu­tional. The con­vict shall not be seg­re­gated/iso­lated till the sen­tence of death has be­come fi­nal, con­clu­sive and in­de­fea­si­ble which can­not be an­nulled or voided by any ju­di­cial or con­sti­tu­tional pro­ce­dure. The pe­riod to keep a con­vict sen­tenced to death in seg­re­ga­tion/iso­la­tion should be for the short­est pos­si­ble time i.e. 2-3 days. The ap­pel­lants shall not be kept in seg­re­ga­tion till they are found to be “pris­on­ers sen­tenced to death”, in view of the law dis­cussed here­in­above.”

The Bench also held that, “This should be done only af­ter the con­vict has ex­hausted all the pos­si­ble op­tions to the high­est lev­els in­clud­ing an ap­peal in the Supreme Court as well as mercy pe­ti­tion to the Pres­i­dent.” The Bench also minced no words in mak­ing it ab­so­lutely clear that, “The prac­tice was in vi­o­la­tion of Ar­ti­cle 21 of the Con­sti­tu­tion that guar­an­tees pro­tec­tion of life and per­sonal lib­erty and Ar­ti­cle 20(2) which says that no per­son shall be pros­e­cuted and pun­ished for the same of­fence more than once.”

It held that iso­lat­ing the con­vict was an

“ad­di­tional pun­ish­ment” and amounts to “tor­ture and vi­o­la­tion of his ba­sic hu­man rights”.

The Bench also held that, “This prac­tice to keep the con­vict in soli­tary con­fine­ment be­fore the ex­haus­tion of his con­sti­tu­tional, le­gal and fun­da­men­tal rights is with­out au­thor­ity of law.” Ac­cord­ing to the

Supreme Court guide­lines on var­i­ous pro­ce­dures be­fore ex­e­cut­ing a death con­vict, soli­tary or sin­gle cell con­fine­ment prior to re­jec­tion of the mercy pe­ti­tion by the Pres­i­dent is un­con­sti­tu­tional. It must be fol­lowed in let­ter and spirit.

It would be per­ti­nent to men­tion here that the di­rec­tions of the court came while hear­ing an ap­peal by Sushil Singh and Me­htab Hus­sain who were sen­tenced to death by a lower court in Dehradun in 2014 for the mur­der and rape of a 55year-old woman in the dis­trict and had chal­lenged the death sen­tence. They had also been con­victed un­der Sec­tion 3(2)(v) of the SC/ST Act, which pre­scribes life im­pris­on­ment for a per­son who com­mits an IPC of­fence pun­ish­able with a 10-year im­pris­on­ment or more against a per­son for the rea­son of them be­ing a mem­ber of the Sched­uled Caste or Sched­uled Tribe com­mu­nity.

Divi­sion Bench of Jus­tice Ra­jiv Sharma and Jus­tice Alok Singh said soli­tary con­fine­ment shall be used as a last re­sort.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.