Prison reforms in India has been a very heated and debated issue. Even after
the formation of various committees consisting of venerated academics and
experts in the field, there hasn't been much ray of hope when it comes to
transforming the prisons in India. An all India Jail Manual Committee was
established in the year 1957 to formulate a manual that would lay down the rules
and regulations for the proper management of the prisons across the country.
In 1972, the government formed a working group to discuss and present before the
government some suggestions regarding the management of prisons in India. On the
basis of the recommendation of this working group, the government framed the
covet National Policy on Prisons.
In furtherance of initiating reforms, the government formed the Mulla Committee,
under the head of Justice Mulla. The primary aim of the committee was to look
into the law, rules, regulations protecting society and reforming offenders. The
committee finalised its report in the year 1983. The importance of the
recommendations of the Mulla Committee is that the issues and problems discussed
and highlighted by the committee are still relevant in today's time.
The committee highlighted points such as living conditions of prisoners as well
as the security issues of the prisons. Another committee formed by the
government in 1987 known by the name Krishna Iyer Committee had taken a view
tantamount to that of the Mulla Committee. Apart from this, it had highlighted
the need for a prison system where the condition of women is given prominence
and the need for and increase in the number of women officials working in
prison, advocating a gender sensitive approach in the prison.
With the passage of time the burden on the prisons has increased manifold. The
number of inmates in the prisons have skyrocketed with limited amount of space
and no change in the infrastructural facilities of the prison. There is an
urgent need for medical specialist in the prisons. There are many prisons which
have a dearth of doctors and specialist like dermatologists, dentists, etc.
There are many inmates who are suffering from various diseases and deficiencies
but no proper care is provided to them. Furthermore, there is no special
arrangement for food for people who are sick in many prisons. The needs of women
prisoners are neglected.
There are many women who are serving jail time but are pregnant and lactating.
The needs of such women are neglected and not taken proper care of. An even more
major concern is that of undertrials. There are numerous inmates who's hearings
are pending before the higher courts but there is no separate arrangement for
such individuals and they are languishing in jail with inmates who are declared
by the courts as confirmed offenders. The committees mentioned above have laid
emphasis on the point that prisoners should not be isolated from the society.
However we see that, there are no voting rights granted to prisoners and their
conjugal rights are also compromised. Little priority has been given to the
quality of food provided to the prisoners. One very imperative issue that has
been neglected is that of juveniles languishing in jail. The committees have
highlighted the importance of legal aid to be provided to the inmates, however
progress for the same remains dormant.
A number of reforms are urgent in order to ensure that the prisons are brought
to terms with the the recommendations of the committee. Some of these reforms
are a need of the hour. One such much needed reform is the formation of new and
independent prison bodies. There is a need to establish a department of prisons
and national commission on prison.
The Prison Act 1884 is a very archaic piece of legislation and requires
amendments and modifications to ensure that the system of prisons function in
the present and according to the needs of the 21st century. Offenders belonging
to the age group of 18-21 should not be confined to the prisons meant for adult
A facility for rehabilitation and reconciliation with the society should be a
norm in prisons. Apart from this, serious offenders must be provided with
counselling facilities in order to ensure that the offender leaving the prison
should not step out with a similar mindset with which he landed up in the prison
in the first place. Another initiative should be to ensure that the prison
population is limited and prisons don't overcrowd. This can be done by speeding
up with the process of trials either by establishing fast track courts or by
hearing matters in the digital mode. There is a covet need to look into the
sanitation conditions of prisons as well as set up new ones which are well
adapted with modern facilities.
In State of Gujrat v Hon'ble High Court of Gujrat
, the court observed
that prisoners are entitled to a minimum wage for the the work done by them
inside jails. This would enable them to integrate with the society once again
after their sentence period is over. In the case of M H Hoskot v State of
, it is the duty of the state to ensure that free legal aid
mentioned under article 39A of the constitution is provided to the prisoners.
In Mohammad Giasuddin v State Of Andhra Pradesh
, it was decided that
prisons must play a therapeutic role in the treatment of social morbidity in the
Starting with the Mulla Committee, a number of key committees have been
established, including the Malimath Committee, the Justice Krishna Iyer
Committee, and, most recently, the Justice Roy Committee (2018), to examine the
state of India's prisons and recommend reforms. However, reform implementation
has been sluggish, and the required political will to effect change is lacking.
Governments must value and appreciate the potential of jail convicts as members
of our society who can contribute in the future if given proper correctional and
The Supreme Court and the various High Courts have reiterated again and again
about the need for prison reforms. However the government has turned a deaf year
towards these calls and recommendation. A draft policy was also drafted but it
had failed to provide a silver lining in the cloud. There is indeed a long road
ahead in the field of prison reforms.
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