Differential treatment in jails 'unconstitutional'

Differential treatment in jails 'unconstitutional'

But contrary to this, most state governments’ central prison authorities, at one point or the other, have been guilty of providing differential or preferential treatment to some prisoners, generally the rich and the ‘powerful’. Separate cells, provisions such as access to newspapers and other amenities not necessarily in conformity with jail manuals, including home food, have been made available to them.

Discussing the matter, DGP Prisons Kuchanna Srinivasan said: “No prisoner, by virtue of having held a particular position or of having been an important person, is eligible for any treatment other than what prisoners generally get in jails.”

There could, however, be exceptions in cases of a deserving prisoner, he said, but stressing on the fact that “deserving” does not mean an “important” person but means that the prisoner with strong grounds for differential treatment.

Speaking to Deccan Herald, former High Court of Karnataka judge M F Saldanha said: “According to the Constitution, there cannot be a distinction between two prisoners.”

Even he concedes that there could be special cases, on health grounds, or if a prisoner is under threat and so on, but not just by virtue of being an “important” person. “What happened to equality before law? Under what provision of law can you do this?” Saldanha questions.

Former Advocate General Uday Holla, in line with Srinivasan’s argument, said: “As long as there are provisions in the law it is fine otherwise it is condemnable.”

Saldanha goes on to say that not only is this in violation of the principles of the Constitution but it will also lead to sociological issues among prisoners.

“I have read reports that some of these people were allowed visitors and they observed Deepavali in jail. Does any other undertrial have such provisions? How do you justify such acts,” he said.

Condemning such activities, he warned this would erode the public’s faith in authorities that they believe are there to protect and guide them.

On whether the concerned court can initiate action against in matters, another retired judge said: “Courts do not take suo moto action. Somebody has to bring it to the notice of the court through proper procedure.”

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