The Supreme Court, on Friday, agonized over the increasing number of custodial or unnatural deaths in the prisons across India and issued a slew of directions to curb them.
“…we do hope that the highlighting of this issue will bring about awareness in the mind and heart of the powers that be and consequential reforms in prisons which may ultimately reduce, if not eliminate, the number of unnatural deaths in prisons and also improve the conditions of prisoners all over the country,” the Bench comprising Justice M.B. Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta observed.
The Court took into account the data on unnatural deaths in prisons available from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) website and the data provided by National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on suicide in prisons.
Highlighting several such facts and statistics available at hand, the Court highlighted the need for an overhaul, in order to ameliorate the conditions of prisoners across the country and thereby reduce the number of unnatural deaths.
“It is time for the State to go beyond projections through circulars and advisories and actually come to grips with reality as it exists in a very large number of prisons. What is practiced in our prisons is the theory of retribution and deterrence and the ground situation emphasizes this, while our criminal justice system believes in reformation and rehabilitation and that is why handcuffing and solitary confinement are prohibited. It is this ‘rejection’ of the philosophy of our criminal justice system that leads to violence in prisons and eventually unnatural deaths,” the Court observed. It then issued the following directions:
Awareness, sensitization and counselling
Custodial death of children