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Plea challenges sections relating to solitary confinement of prisoners; Delhi HC issues notice to Centre

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Tuesday issued notice to the Central Government on a plea seeking direction to declare sections related to the separate and solitary confinement of prison inmates as ultra vires being in violation of their rights under several articles of the Constitution of India.
The plea has sought the declaration of sections relating to separate confinement of prison inmates as ultra vires in violation of rights under articles 14, 19(1)(a), 20(2), and 21 of the Indian Constitution. The plea stated that "solitary confinement' is neither defined in Impugned Sections nor its conditions specified that make confinement 'solitary', but its features are designed to gratuitously increase prisoner physical and mental ordeals and conditions are dehumanizing, degrading and destroy reformation and rehabilitation inflicting undue additional punishment.
The bench of Justice Satish Chander Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad on Tuesday sought a response of the Centre through the Ministry of Law and Justice and Minster of Home Affairs and asked the lawyer to take instructions in the matter within six weeks.
The petitioner Harsh Singhal, a practicing Lawyer, stated that solitary confinement is a venomous lethal sting of a veritable scorpion, it is a sadistic, barbaric, and inhuman practice that consigns prisoners into dingy malodorous dungeons by abusive, coercive, and obstreperous prison officials for even minor prison infractions as feigning sickness, squabbling over food or access to toilets, being indolent or even talking-back with prison officers.
"Solitary confinement that cuts off an inmate from sensory, visual, and social society is inhuman, exacerbates his psychological make up, and worsens instead of ameliorating. Instead, isolating and "segregating" per section 28 of The Prisons Act 1894 individually in a cell with no other inmate is sufficient to protect him and others from him. But solitary confinement for 22/23 hours a day for 7 or 14 days in a small dingy cell is coercive passive euthanasia. Hence, the need for urgent judicial invalidation of the Impugned Sections," the plea stated.
It further said while solitary confinement is discretionary power no award can be made without substantive materials justifying imposition in addition to Rigorous Imprisonment (RI). Even for the most brutal offences for which a court can award RI for life, no court can compound such RI by also adding solitary confinement.
"No court can assume that just because a heinous crime is committed, a convict also deserves solitary confinement. This judicial power is untenable and unconstitutional," it added. (ANI)

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