The Prisoners Act, 1894 came into existence in order to regulate
the prisoners. It is one of the key legislations where the police & lawyers
should understand the process. In this article, let us have a look on what are
the labour rights that a prisoners can have as per the prisoners Act, 1894.
Firstly, the Sec. 11 of the Act, which deals about the Superintendent says
that as per the orders of the Inspector General (IG), the Superintendent need to
manage all the matters relating to prison especially with respect to discipline,
labour, expenditure, punishment and control. This provision says that
Superintendent is the authority who manages all the matters respect to the
Further, Sec. 15 of the Act deals about the report on death of
prisoner. The medical officer shall record the particulars on the death of the
prisoners. The provision specially mentions that in case if the prisoner does or
engaged in any activity related to labour on the day of his death occurred then
the medical officer shall compulsorily record it.
The Sec. 24 of the Act states that prisoner shall be examined
on admission. In this provision, it is stated that the after the admission,
prisoner shall also as soon as possible examined by proper medical officer and
the same needed to be entered in a jailer record book regarding the class of
labour that he thinks fit. Hence, the medical officer can also make an
observation and can give directions about the labour class of prisoner and where
he can work.
Further, Sec. 26 of the Act speaks about the removal &
discharge of prisoners. This provision states that prisoner cannot be removed
without medical officer report. Also, one person cannot be removed from one
prison to other without the same report. Even without the opinion of medical
expert, no prisoner can discharge from prison against his will.
Further, Sec. 35 of the Act states about the employment of
prisoners who have criminal charges. This provision clearly states that the one
prisoner cannot work more than nine hours per day except in emergency
circumstances declared by the Superintendent.
Also, the medical expert from
shall examine about laboring prisoners from time to time and at least once in
every two weeks to be recorded of each prisoner employment based on weight. In
case the medical expert has any opinion about like any prisoner cannot do a
particular labour activity then medical expert may recommend that he or she
cannot suit for such labour. Then upon such opinion, the relevant prisoner shall
not be employed in such labour activity.
Next, the Sec. 26 of the Act which states about employment of
prisoners who were sentenced to simple imprisonment. But the prisoners shall not
be punished for neglect of labour work except under certain exceptions made in
the rules of prison.
Further, Sec. 45 of the Act speaks about the offences in
prison. Like it specifies few acts like willful disobedience, assault or
criminal force usage, make threatening or using insulting kind of language,
performing any act with immoral behavior and willfully disabling from labour.
Hence, willfully disabling from labour can be a prison offence. Further, Sec. 46
of the Act states about the punishment for these offences.
instructions of Superintendent, the prisoner will be punished initially with
formal warning then in case of hard labour can be punished not exceeding seven
days in case of simple imprisonment. The Superintendent can also take action on
irksome activities. There may be also a separate confinement for three to four
months. Also, they may impose restrictions on panel diet with some exception of
not more than ninety days. More over Sec. 47 of the Act speaks about the
plurality of punishment i.e., which elaborates on no two punishments can be made
at once. It specifically mentions that panel diet shall not be combined with
When it comes to fitness of the prisoner, Medical officer need to
give certificate for fitness, competency and change of labour. Also he needs to
check the capability of prisoner to undergo any punishment. The same has been
explained in section 50 of the Act. Lastly, Sec. 59(14) of the
Act states about the state government power regarding to make rules for
classifying and regulating the labour.
There are different issues with respect to the prisoner labour. If we discuss in
depth in one famous case, The court not only stressed that a convict is entitled
to the right guaranteed by article 21 but it (court) also relied heavily upon
article 21, inter alia , to hold that a prisoner cannot either be subjected to
unwarranted physical or mental restraint or to a cruel or torturous
The Andhra Pradesh High Court, in the Vijaykumar case, denying that article
23 of the Constitution forms the basis for the assertion that a prisoner has a
right to be paid wages, argued that even payment of wages by the state to a
prisoner compelled to do hard labour does not alter the forced character of the
labour extracted from the prisoner.
However, his Lordship, relying heavily upon
tenor of article 21 of the Constitution and recalling the punitive policy of
section 53, IPC, held that a prisoner has the right to earn his livelihood and
to preserve his life and the state, in turn, has a corresponding obligation to
provide work to the prisoner and to pay him, unless there is a valid law enacted
by the Legislature, and found by the constitutional courts to be fair and
reasonable, authorizing the state to deny the payment, for the work extracted
It, in the absence of such an authorization either in section 53, IPC,
or any other statute, held that the extraction of hard labour from a prisoner
without payment of fair wages violates the prisoner's right guaranteed in
article 21 of the Constitution.
The SC asserted that the mere detention does not deprive the convicts of all the
fundamental rights enshrined in our constitution. In 1977, the SC stressed
for the rehabilitation of prisoners and reformation of prisons.
held that the fact that a person is legally in prison does not prevent the use
of Habeas Corpus to protect his other inherent rights. In one case the court
held that no person shall be hand-cuffed, fettered routinely for convince of the
custodian’s escort. The right to fair treatment and right of judicial remedy
are pre-requisites of administration of prison justice. The Court adopted a
dynamic and constructive role with regard prison reforms. Court apart from other
things stressed on the improvements of the conditions of the prisons in
The Supreme Court in U.S. in Manna v. People of Illinois
that life is not merely animal existence. The souls behind the bar can’t be
denied the same. The rights guaranteed by Art.21 are for every person and not
even the state could deny it. Prisoners also have all the rights which a free
man has under some restrictions. Just being in prison doesn’t deprive them from
their fundamental rights.
Hence, we can say that the prisoners are also the humans and they have also
fundamental rights as ensured in the constitution with the exceptions. We can’t
deprive them but can rehabilitate by engaging them in labour works.
- Section11 of the Prisoners Act, 1894
- Section 15 of the Prisoners Act, 1894
- Section 24 of the Prisoners Act, 1894
- Section 26 of the Prisoners Act, 1894
- Section 35 of the Prisoners Act, 1894
- Section 26 of the Prisoners Act, 1894
- Section 45 of the Prisoners Act, 1894
- Section 46 of the Prisoners Act, 1894
- Section 47 of the Prisoners Act, 1894
- Section 50 of the Prisoners Act, 1894
- Section 59(14) of the Prisoners Act, 1894
- Rights of Prisoners (2020). Available at: http://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-75-rights-of-prisoners.html
(Accessed: 6 June 2020).
- Inderjeet v. State of U. P., AIR 1979 SC 1867.
- P. Bhaskara Vijaykumar v. Andhra Pradesh, AIR 1988 AP 295.
- D.B.M.Patnaik v. State of Andhra Pradesh, AIR 1974 SC 2092.
- Hiralal Mallick v. State of Bihar, AIR 1977 SC 2237
- Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration, AIR 1978 SC 1675
- Prem Shankar Shukla v. Delhi Administration, AIR 1980 SC 1535
- R.D. Upadhyay v. State of A.P and ors. AIR 2001 SC 437
- Hussain Ara Khatun v. State of Bihar, AIR 1979 SC 1377
- Manna v. people of Illinois, 94 US 113 (1876).
- Kadimisetty Sai Sreenadh, Final year students of
Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University, Visakhapatnam and
Email: [email protected]
- CVN Sai Chand, Final year students of Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University, Visakhapatnam.
Email: [email protected]