The Punjab and Haryana High Court ruled on Wednesday that keeping a prisoner to a cell for 22 hours a day for quasi-solitary confinement is unlawful and violates the fundamental right to life protected by Article 21 of the Constitution (Rajia vs. State of Punjab).
The Court was considering a plea brought by a mobster named Rajia, who claimed he was confined to his cell for 22 hours a day and only allowed to go for two hours.
He also claimed that ordinary prisoners have access to amenities such as private maintenance, which includes the provision of food, clothing, bedding, and other necessities from private sources, as well as cooking facilities, adequate food and water, adequate clothing, newspapers, magazines, and television.
He claimed that these limits amounted to solitary confinement and that they violated his right to life under Article 21.
According to the State, the petitioner has a total of 34 cases pending against him, three of which he has been convicted in. While he was in judicial custody, six cases were filed against him. He is currently serving a life sentence for committing dacoity. It was claimed that as a well-known criminal, he has a proclivity for inciting riots.
As a result, security was ramped up, and it was decided that petitioner and other like prisoners would only be released from their cells for two hours.
In this regard, the Court cited the Supreme Court’s decision in Sunil Batra (II) vs. Delhi Administration, noting that “the true import of the Supreme Court of India does not seem to have percolated to the Administrators of Prisons, as is highlighted by the facts of this bunch of cases” nearly four decades after the decision.
The Court went on to say that the authorities had gone too far and had infringed the prisoners’ fundamental rights.