Conjugal rights for prisoners can wait, make jails corrective institutions

High court orders granting of right to procreation and conjugal rights to prisoners

GN Bureau | January 7, 2015



Indian prisons are no longer the hellholes of the world and neither comfortable places. The jails are mostly crowded and brutality is almost a daily affair. Under these circumstances, another high court judgement to allow sex for the married couple and conjugal rights for the deserving prisoners is baffling.

The Punjab and Haryana high court this week allowed sex in prison, with certain riders. The court said the couple should be legally married and conjugal union would be allowed only for procreation.

Last January, the Maharashtra high court had asked the Maharashtra state government as to why can't the prisoners have sex in jails.

The Punjab and Haryana high court, in an order made public on Tuesday, backed the right of jail inmates to have conjugal visits. It said even artificial insemination for progeny was a fundamental right.

The verdict was delivered by justice Surya Kant. The orders were passed on a petition filed by Jasvir Singh and Sonia. They are lodged in Patiala jail and legally married. The couple had  sought court directions to the prison authorities to make 'the necessary arrangements' for their conjugal union

The judge held that right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of Indian Constitution included the right of convicts and jail inmates to have conjugal visits or artificial insemination as an alternative.

As a result of this judgement, the prisons department will have to create the 'environment' for the conjugal and family visits in jail. It will also have to categorise the inmates entitled to such visits.

However, with overcrowded prisons and vastly stretched jail authorities, the feasibility of such arrangements looks improbable.

Capital’s Tihar Jail is notoriously crowded with nearly 10000 prisoners at any given day.  The jail also has various posts lying vacant.

The jail staff and the police have their hands full in monitoring the prisoners and escorting them to courts.

In fact, overcrowding is a massive problem in the jails of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Last year, the supreme court had ordered freedom for under-trials who had served half the term of their maximum punishment period possible in their cases.

Prisons reform is one area that both the government and rights organizations have tried to bring in few changes. What is needed is proper manual to bring behavioral changes in the prisoners so that when they come back to society, they do not pick up crime again.  The jails should become corrective institutions and not breeding grounds for hardened criminals, who remain a menace to the society. 

Hence, it will be a long time before conjugal rights are granted inside the jail.

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