‘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
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.