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HomeEditorialIs there absence of law regarding Indian prisons system? - Part I

Is there absence of law regarding Indian prisons system? – Part I

A study on deaths behind bars reveals that on an average almost 1,000 prisoners die in custody every year

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Sheena Bora murder case accused Indrani Mukerjea is battling with the violence in jail by its custodians, she narrated before a special CBI court.  How can the male officials of the Byculla women’s prison cane women inmates and even threaten her against being a witness in the court, she said.

Life of a woman in a prison seems to be very hard and bad. A study on deaths behind bars reveals that on an average almost 1,000 prisoners die in custody every year and 90 per cent of them are under trials. Statistics also reveal that most under trial punishments are converted into death penalties. Also, the death of a prisoner is never considered a custodial death but rather shown as a case of natural death.

The overcrowded jails are the biggest threat where ‘high profile’ prisoners are given priority and different cells while commoners have to spend their term in overcrowded cells. Indrani, who has been booked for rioting in the women’s prison in Mumbai along with other inmates, was hit on the hand and legs after which she could barely walk. Her crime is yet to be proven. The judiciary has taken her in custody for trials. But the treatment these women are meted out in jail is not justified.

A 45-year-old woman prisoner Manju Govind Shette had died in jail at the hands of jail officials after which the inmates protested against jail authorities.

Indrani was produced in Court after she moved an application alleging that jail officials roughed her up. Recalling the events on the day of the protest, she alleged that the superintendent had ordered a lathi charge after turning the lights off in the jail. The special CBI court allowed Indrani Mukerjea to lodge a complaint against prison officials. Narrating the incident, Indrani told the Court that she was threatened and assaulted after she said that she would give a statement (in connection with the case) to a magistrate under the provisions of Section 164 CRPC which unlike a police statement is admissible in court.

Anyways this is not the plight of Mumbai or Maharashtra prisoners alone, almost everywhere in India they go through this hell. A few women who served prison terms have recorded torture and inhuman treatment within the prisons across other states too. In Tamil Nadu, prison female inmates were stripped naked and abused verbally and physically and not provided even basic facilities. The NHRC recorded 39 cases of rape from judicial and police custody from 2006 to 28 February 2010.

Citing the case of Maloti Kalandi, wife of Badal Kalandi who along with children was rescued from being trafficked was handed over to the Tamulpur police station, Baksa district of Assam for safe custody. Instead of providing safety, Sub-Inspector Sahidur Rahman summoned the victim to his official quarter and raped her. Similarly, two more prisoners, Munniammal who had been lodged in the Nilakottai sub-jail for robbery and M Muthulakshmi who had been arrested by the police for illicit brewing of liquor said they were never given anything but gruel in the prison. They also said that four to eight prisoners were crammed into a cell and they were forced to use a small corner as their toilet without even a curtain to provide them privacy.

A Tihar Jail’s woman prisoner facing trial in cases of cheating and forgery has accused the jail warden of torturing her with the help of HIV positive woman inmate for extorting money from her. She was beaten up for an hour in front of the deputy superintendent and the jail staff who remained mute spectators.

Ms. Saradha was brought to Special Prison for Women, Vellore, Tamil Nadu as a remand prisoner having been remanded by the Judicial Magistrate. She was undressed totally and dragged nude for quite some time till they reached the entrance of her cell and was put in solitary confinement and she was never given back her clothes and no official in the prison bothered about her. She was awarded 50,000/- as compensation by the Court. But no one ever bothered about her mental state or what happened to her after that. Her dignity was paid in rupees as recompense.

Soni Sori, a 38-year-old schedule tribe school teacher, warden and mother, was subjected to sexual violence while in custody in the Dantewada police station in Chhattisgarh under directions of the Superintendent of Police .She was repeatedly given electric shocks, her clothes were taken off. She was made to stand naked. The SP was watching her sitting on his chair. While looking at her body, he abused her in filthy language and humiliated her badly.

The horror doesn’t stop here. In a Nagpur prison, six napkins were given every month but this quantity was not sufficient. Earlier, the staff asked inmates to strip to show if they were menstruating. This practice was stopped after complaints. Sometimes the jailers used to put fingers in inmates private parts to make sure that they are menstruating. The criminal justice system has failed to protect the rights of women who are often victims of violence and discrimination.

Some 1,000 women were jailed in a space meant for 150, each making do with one bar of soap to bath and to wash clothes for a whole month. Their children grow up knowing little about the outside world, unable to recognise even cats and dogs.

According to the NCRB Crime Report, a total of 344 convicted women with their 382 children and 1,226 under-trial women with their 1,397 children were lodged in various prisons across India at the end of 2012.

There is high corruption inside the jails, and there are ways by which one can get the necessary things inside too (cigarette, alcohol, a girl for a night, good food etc) usually corporate criminals and politicians are the ones availing these facilities as prices are spiked like anything inside. The recent example is politician Sasikala. Whenever a high profile woman gets in prison, she is given all special privileges because she can afford to buy the authorities with common woman especially those who were caught in petty thefts for survival prison becomes one living hell. Any jail in India is a death trap.

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Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi Taman an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with three Honourary Doctorate in Journalism. Vaidehi has been an active journalist for the past 21 years, and is also the founding editor of an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, and The Democracy digital video news portal is her brain child. Vaidehi has three books in her name, "Sikhism vs Sickism", "Life Beyond Complications" and "Vedanti". She is an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, OSCP offensive securities, Certified Security Analyst and Licensed Penetration Tester that caters to her freelance jobs.
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