13 Dec 2022 6:07 AM GMT
The Telangana High Court has directed Cherlapally Central Prison to remove two death row inmates from solitary confinement and permit their movement within jail by treating them equally with other prisoners.Justice Lalitha Kanneganti said the prisoners shall be provided to all facilities like the other prisoners. "In this case, Sanjay Kumar and Marri Srinivas Reddy were convicted and...
The Telangana High Court has directed Cherlapally Central Prison to remove two death row inmates from solitary confinement and permit their movement within jail by treating them equally with other prisoners.
Justice Lalitha Kanneganti said the prisoners shall be provided to all facilities like the other prisoners.
"In this case, Sanjay Kumar and Marri Srinivas Reddy were convicted and they preferred an Appeal before this Court and their Appeal is still pending consideration. In view of the same, as per the law laid down by the Hon'ble Apex Court in Sunil Batra's, which was subsequently followed in several other cases, it cannot be said that the death convicts have to be kept in a solitary confinement. Section 30 of the Prisoners Act, they cannot be applied to Sanjay Kumar and Marri Srinivas Reddy as their legal rights are still not exhausted," said the court.
The bench further said the right to live with human dignity is a right guaranteed under the Constitution of India to all its citizens and it will also apply to the prisoners. Just because they are prisoners, they cannot be put to any kind of inhumane treatment, it added.
However, Justice Kanneganti clarified that if the behaviour of the convict is such which may have led the authorities to keep him in solitary confinement by way of a punishment, it stands on a different footing.
"... but in this case, only reason mentioned is that under Section 30, as they are death convicts, they are being given this kind of a treatment. The prisoners should be provided with such an environment whereby they will evolve as a better citizen. This kind of treatment by keeping them in solitary confinement will have a very bad effect on the psychological aspect which deprives the prisoner all his personal rights," said the court.
Justice Kanneganti reiterated that a prisoner is entitled to all the fundamental rights unless curtailed by the Constitution.
"A person can be said to be under sentence of death only when the death sentence is beyond judicial scrutiny and shall be operative without any intervention from any authority, till then the person who is awarded jail punishment cannot be said to be a person under the sentence of death in the context of Section 30(2) of the Prisoners Act. It is also consistently held that keeping a convict in the custodial segregation before extension of its constitutional, legal and fundamental rights is without any authority of law and amounts to torture," noted the bench.
The Court reproduced the observations made in various judicial precedents including the Supreme Court decision in State of Andhra Pradesh v. Challa Ramakrishna Reddy, State of Haryana v. Arun and State of Maharashtra v. Prabhakar Panduranga Sangzgiri, while allowing the petition.
The writ petition was filed by Trisha Chandran, who is an advocate with Project 39A which is a criminal justice initiative based in National Law University, Delhi for pro bono legal representation of death row inmates before the Supreme Court and various High Courts. The plea filed through advocate K Manoj Reddy and argued by Senior Counsel P. Vivek Reddy, sought removal of the two death row inmates from solitary confinement.
It was earlier submitted that two convicted prisoners on death row were confined in individual cells which have "only one window without any ventilation". It was contended that this differential treatment is in violation of Article 20(2) and 21 of the Constitution.
The petitioner relied on various case laws including the decision of the Apex Court in In Re: Inhuman Conditions in 1382 Prisons (2019) wherein it was held that "the convicts on death row have the right to move freely within the confines of the prison like any other convict undergoing rigorous imprisonment and he is entitled to every comfort that are available to other prisoners including communication with prisoners, books reading material, etcetera."
The counsel representing the petitioner also relied on Sunil Batra (I) v. Delhi Administration and Kishore Singh Ravinder Dev. V. State of Rajasthan. It was submitted that the death sentence imposed by trial court is pending confirmation before the High Court and there is no judicial order directing them to be placed under solitary confinement under Section 73 of IPC.
The Government Pleader for Home contended that Prison administration was acting in accordance with Section 30 of the Prisons Act, 1894. All the prisoners who are sentenced to death are segregated from other convict prisoners and kept in separate cells.
"The cells which were allotted to the death sentenced are constructed with proper space area, attached bathroom with latrine facilities and installed ceiling fan for free air with proper ventilation and also providing sufficient water facility inside the said compartment so as to enable them to meet their daily necessities without any difficulty," the government counsel submitted.
Case Title: Trisha Chandran v. The Superintendent, Cherlapally Central Prison & Anr.
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Tel) 100
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