‘Not more than 2-3 day soli­tary con­fine­ment for death row pris­oner’

RIGHTS IS­SUE HC divi­sion bench cites UN guide­lines which say the mea­sure should be used in ex­cep­tional cases as a last re­sort

Hindustan Times (Amritsar) - - Punjab - Suren­der Sharma suren­[email protected]­dus­tan­times.com ■ ■

Iso­la­tion for in­def­i­nite pe­riod causes im­mense pain, agony and anx­i­ety to the con­demned con­vict.

THE HIGH COURT

CHANDIGARH: The Pun­jab and Haryana high court has held that a con­vict awarded death sen­tence by a trial court can’t be kept in soli­tary con­fine­ment for more than 2-3 days.

“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 is vi­ola­tive of his ba­sic hu­man rights,” a divi­sion bench presided over by jus­tices Ra­jiv Sharma and Gurvin­der Singh Gill ruled while an­swer­ing a crim­i­nal ref­er­ence.

The is­sue had come up be­fore the bench dur­ing the hear­ing of a rape-mur­der case of 9-year-old girl in Ma­hen­dar­garh dis­trict of Haryana in Novem­ber 2014.

The court ob­served that the United Nations Stan­dard Min­i­mum Rules for the Treat­ment of Pris­on­ers lays down that the soli­tary con­fine­ment shall be used only in ex­cep­tional cases as a last re­sort. “It shall not be im­posed by virtue of a pris­oner’s sen­tence. The soli­tary con­fine­ment means the con­fine­ment of pris­on­ers for 22 hours or a day with­out mean­ing­ful hu­man con­tact. Pro­longed soli­tary con­fine­ment shall re­fer to soli­tary con­fine­ment for a time pe­riod in ex­cess of 15 con­sec­u­tive days,” the court said, re­fer­ring to the UN rules.

The Pun­jab Jail Man­ual that Haryana gov­ern­ment also fol­lows says the warder shall not al­low any per­son to go near or com­mu­ni­cate with the pris­oner ex­cept by the au­tho­rised per­son. He is sup­posed to be in iso­la­tion for more than 23 hours in a day, the man­ual says.

A con­vict sen­tenced to death, im­me­di­ately af­ter the pro­nounce­ment of sen­tence by the trial court is put in soli­tary con­fine­ment in Haryana.

“There is no sci­en­tific rea­son why the con­vict sen­tenced to death should be kept in iso­la­tion for in­def­i­nite pe­riod till he ex­hausts all his con­sti­tu­tional and le­gal reme­dies. It causes im­mense pain, agony and anx­i­ety to the con­demned con­vict. It is vi­ola­tive of Ar­ti­cles 20 (2) and 21 of the Con­sti­tu­tion of In­dia,” the court said, adding that a man, even sen­tenced to death, has cer­tain priv­i­leges and rights which can­not be de­nied to him due to ‘colo­nial mind­set’.

Abol­ish­ing the prac­tice, the court termed the pro­vi­sions of the Pun­jab Jail Man­ual as an­ar­chic, cruel and in­sen­si­tive and ruled that 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 process.

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