1. In the cover of obscurity and low visibility, fundamentalhuman rights like right to life, health, dignity of a person canbe easily violated and denied.2. Segregation of ‘offenders’ from the society can lead to socialand psychological problems which can seriously impact themental and physical well being of a person.3. While in custody a person cannot choose the doctor orhospital where he can get his treatment and the kind oftreatment, therefore doctors have undue powers over theperson’s well being.4. With overcrowding and unhygienic conditions diseasescontagious can easily spread.
1. Visiting doctors and committees are important to ensurethat regular health check-ups are done.2. Hygienic conditions and sanitisation of the environment isrelevant.3. Affiliation with specialised hospitals and doctors for propertreatment.
1. By interacting with a visitor inside the prison is the onlyway a person in custody can interact with the society.2. Visitors can ensure transparency, accountability andmonitoring in the prison administration system.3. Visitors can ensure that a person’s physical and mentalhealth is maintained while in custody.4. Visitors can help the person to enhance his skills and beproductive once released from the jail.5. Visitors can help address any specific issues faced by thepersons under custody.
1. Official Visitors2. Non-Official Visitors3. Lawyers4. Family and Friends
The Prisons Act, 1894Section 59 (25) Power to make rules-25. for the appointment and guidance of visitors ofprisons.The Indian Jail Committee, 1919-20,–The person selected for the position of a non-official visitor of ajail should be chosen on the ground of definite qualifications,such as an interest in prison matters or other social work, orability and willingness to assist in finding work for prisoners onrelease. …… Selection should not be made solely on the ground ofsocial position, wealth or political influence, but on the basis ofspecial fitness…. (515 – Report of the IJC- 19-20)
Prison Manual of Maharashtra, Chapter XV, Rule 6 –Prison Visitors‘Appointment of Non-official Visitors’The appointment of non-official visitors (other than members of theMaharashtra Legislature) shall, subject to the provisions of sub-rule(4), be made by the State Government from amongst persons who inits opinion, are interested in the administration of prisons andare likely to take interest in the prisoners and their welfare bothwhile they are in prison and after their release.
Prison Rules provide for the constitution of ‘Board of Visitors’through the office of the District Magistrate/DivisionalCommissioner. The purpose of the constitution of these Boards is –1.To regulate prison visits by official and non-official visitors throughthe ‘roster of visitors’.2.To ensure at least one visit of the prison per month by an agencyother than the officials of the department.3.To involve all persons nominated as official or non-official visitorsand to give each one of them some occasions of visiting prison.4.To provide a forum for discussing problems of prisons and prisonersoutside the intervention of the prison department.
Sanjay Suri v. Delhi Administration, 1988 Supp. SCC 169The Supreme Court observed:“The Visitor’s Board should consist of cross-sections of society:people with good background social activities, peopleconnected with the news media, lady social workers, jurists,retired public officers from the judiciary as also the executive.The Sessions Judge should be given an acknowledged positionas a visitor and his visits should not be routine ones. Full careshould be taken by him to have a real picture of the defects inthe administration qua the resident prisoners and under trials.”
“The visitors of jails include senior executive officers of the Division, SessionsJudges and District Magistrates (see rule 47). This is ordinarily an All Indiapattern. The duties of official visitors include satisfying themselves that theprovisions of the Prisons Act, rules, regulations, orders and directions areduly observed. Undoubtedly, the proper adherence to S. 56 and the relatedrules falls within the purview of rule’49 . Rule‘ 53 states that all visitors shallhave the opportunity of observing the state of jail, its management and everyprisoner confined therein. The visitors, official and non-official, have powerto call for and inspect jail records.”“All institutions that hold people against their wishes need outsidesupervision, for, by definition, they lack the internal checks and balances thatmake such supervision unnecessary elsewhere. One can check out of a hotel ifabused, but not out of a prison. Prison staffs, which unlike hotel staffs, canalso totally circumscribe the activities of inmates-have extensive coercivepower that must be checked by an outside authority if it is not to be abused.While sharing the, purposes of the penal system, the outside authority shouldbe altogether independent of the management of the institutions it is tosuper vise and of its personnel.”
“Jail visitors have no powers to cancel the superintendents orders norobligation to hold enquiry save to pity and to make remarks.Periodical parades prisoners, when the visitors or dignitaries call for aturn-out, prove a circus in a zoo from a practical standpoint or/andjournal entries and history-tickets a voodoo according to rule, the keypoint to be noted being that after this public exhibition within theprison, the complaining prisoners are marked men at the iron mercyof the hierarchy, there being no active legal aid project busy withinthe prison. This ferocious rule of law and rule, cannot be sustained asanything but arbitrary, unreasonable and procedurally heartless. Theperil to its life from the lethal stroke of Articles 14, 19 and 21 read with13 needs no far-fetched argument.”
A challenge was made to a prison rule which permitted only oneinterview in a month with the members of the family or legal advisor.The interview with the legal advisor was to be held after obtainingpermission of the District Magistrate, Delhi, and in the presence of anofficer of Customs/Central Excise/Enforcement. The rule was heldviolative of Article s 14 and 21.The SC held, “We are of the view that a detenu must be permitted tohave atleast two interviews in a week with relatives and friends and itshould be possible for a relative or friend to have interview with thedetenu at any reasonable hour on obtaining permission from theSuperintendent of the Jail and it should not be necessary to seek thepermission of the District Magistrate, Delhi, as the latter procedurewould be cumbrous and unnecessary from the point of view ofsecurity and hence unreasonable. “
“We think that it would be quite reasonable if a detenu were tobe entitled to have interview with his legal adviser at anyreasonable hour during the day after taking appointment fromthe Superintendent of the Jail, which appointment should begiven by the Superintendent without any avoidable delay. Wemay add that the interview need not necessarily take place inthe presence of a nominated officer of Customs/CentralExcise/Enforcement but if the presence of such officer can beconveniently secured at the time of the interview withoutinvolving any postponement of the interview, then such officerand if his presence cannot be so secured, then any other Jailofficial may, if thought necessary, watch the interview but notas to be within hearing distance of the detenu and the legaladviser.”
Neglect of health and hygiene“35. The Mulla Committee has dealt with this aspect in Chapter 6 and7 of its Report, a perusal of which shows the pathetic position inwhich most of the jails are placed insofar as hygienic conditions areoncerned. most of them also lack proper facilities for treatment ofprisoners. The recommendations of the Committee in this regard areto be found in Chapter 29. We have nothing useful to add exceptpointing out that society has an obligation towards prisoners healthfor two reasons. First, the prisoners do not enjoy the access tomedical expertise that free citizens have. Their incarceration placeslimitations on such access; no physician of choice, no secondopinions, and few if any specialists. Secondly, because of thecondition son their incarceration, inmates are exposed to more healthhazards than free citizens. Prisoners therefore, suffer from a doublehandicap.”
Streamlining of jail visits41. Prison visits fall into three categories: (1) relatives and friends; (2)professionals; and (3) lay persons. In the first category comes the spouse.Visit by him/her has special significance because a research undertaken onIndian prisoners sometime back showed that majority of them were in theage group of 18 to 34, which shows that most of them were young and wereperhaps having a married life before their imprisonment. For such persons,denial of conjugal life during the entire period of incarceration createsemotional problems also. Visits by a spouse is, therefore, of great importance.42. …in many jails facilities available to the visitors are degrading. At manyplaces even privacy is not maintained. If the offenders and visitors arescreened, the same emphasises their separation rather than retainingcommon bonds and interests. There is then urgent need to streamline thesevisits.44. As to visits by professionals, i.e. the lawyer, the same has to be guaranteedto the required extent, if the prisoner be a pre-trial detainee, in view of theright conferred by Article 22(1) of the Constitution.
The case brought into sharp focus the pitiable state of jails inthe State of M.P. The callous behaviour of doctors,maltreatment by jail staff and tampering of jail records came upfor judicial scrutiny. All this went on for years with the Visitors’Committee apparently oblivious of it all.The Court directed a thorough probe into the matter againstthose found to be remiss or negligent in their duty, andcriminal prosecution against those found to be guilty.