Indian democracy wedded to Rule of Law aims not only to protect fundamental rights of its citizens but also to establish an egalitarian order. Law being an instrument of social engineering obliges the judiciary to carry out the process established by it.
Lord Chancellor Sankey once said amidst the cross currents and shifting sands of public life the law is like a great ark upon which a man may set his foot and be safe. In this remark, he has emphasized on the importance of law. It is needless to say that life of an individual in a society would become a continuing disaster if not regulated.
The Indian socio-legal system is based on non-violence, mutual respect and human dignity of the individual. If a person commits any crime, it does not mean that by committing a crime, he ceases to be a human being and that he can be deprived of those aspects of life which constitutes human dignity. Even the prisoners have human rights because the prison torture is not the last drug in the Justice Pharmacopoeia but a confession of failure to do justice to living man. For a prisoner all fundamental rights are an enforceable reality, though restricted by the fact of imprisonment.
It was just less than 200 years ago, the attitude to prisons, prisoners and punishment was brutal and barbaric. Recognition of the human being in the convicted offender is an idea that has been accepted after a long struggle with the state.
The past decade has witnessed an increasing consciousness about the desirability of prison reforms, It is now being recognized that a reformative philosophy and a rehabilitative strategy must form a part of prison justice.
Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees the right of personal liberty and thereby prohibits any inhuman, cruel or degrading treatments to any person whether he is a national or foreigner. Any violation of this right attracts the provisions of Article 14 of the Constitution which enshrines right to equality and equal protection of law. In addition to this, the question of cruelty to prisoners is also dealt with specifically by the Prison Act, 1894. If any excesses are committed on a prisoner, the prison administration is responsible for that. Any excesses committed on a prisoner by the police authorities not only attracts the attention of the legislature but also of the judiciary. The Indian judiciary, particularly the Supreme Court in the recent past has been very vigilant against encroachments upon the human rights of the prisoners.
Click to read complete article