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Delhi High Court on Thursday agrees to hear the Plea Seeking directions to Jail Authorities for making necessary arrangements to provide Conjugal Visitation Rights to the prisoners lodged in Jails.

A Conjugal visit, which may also be referred to as ‘Private Family Visiting’, is a visit wherein a jail inmate gets to spend time in private with a visitor, usually a legal partner/ spouse, and may engage sexually.

Petitioner in person Advocate Mr Amit Sahni mentioned the matter before the bench headed by the Chief Justice Rajender Menon and Justice Brijesh Sethi of Delhi High Court. Petitioner challenged and sought setting aside the Rule 608 of Delhi Prison Rules, 2018 which provides ‘meeting with prisoner inside jail to be done in the supervision of prison officer’. The Petition primarily contends that the said provision obstructs the proper and fair conjugal visitation right. The Petitioner leading the argument further supported it with the data that around 8000 prisoners are in the age group of 21 to 30 years and among those who are married, meeting their spouse in front of prison officer severely violate conjugal right and privacy.

Petitioner referred to ‘The United Nation Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners’ adopted by UN General Assembly in December 2015 wherein the Rule 58(2) states “where conjugal visits are allowed, this right shall be applied without discrimination, and women prisoners shall be able to exercise this right on an equal basis with men. Procedures shall be in place and premise shall be made available to ensure fair and equal access with due regard to safety and dignity”. India being a signatory to the rule is bound to apply the content of the rules in true spirit. He further supported his argument through the case K.S. Puttaswamy (2017) wherein the right to privacy has been considered as Fundamental Right.

The Petitioner wrote a representation to the Jail authorities and Delhi Government to make necessary arrangement to provide conjugal visitation right in privacy to the prisoners lodged in jails. But, he is yet to hear from the authorities.

The Petitioner also put his reliance on research paper published in ‘International Journal of pure and Applied Mathematics’ recognizes the key issues face by detainees and their spouses. The article stresses on how not allowing conjugal visit is against human rights of the prisoners and promotes unnatural sex inside prison beside inflicting punishment on the spouse of the inmate who is also indirectly denied conjugal rights.

The apex court in a case titled Sunil Batra Vs. Delhi Administration (1978) has held that, “convicts are not by mere reason of the conviction denuded of all the Fundamental rights which they otherwise possess.” And directed the government to put in place a Jail reforms committee for the purpose of formulating a scheme for creation of an environment for conjugal and family visits for jail inmates and shall identify the categories of inmates entitled of such visit. Further, the Punjab and Haryana High Court adopted a progressive approach in ‘Jasvir Singh & Anr Vs State of Punjab’ when it held that “the right to procreation survive incarceration”. Such a right is traceable and squarely falls within the ambit of Article 21 of our Constitution read with Universal Declaration of Human Right.

The petitioner further relied upon a judgment on PIL by the Bombay High Court wherein the Court directed the Maharashtra government to examine the possibility of allowing jail inmates to engage sexually with their wives in privacy within the jail premise. A Bench of Justice PB Majumdar and Justice RG Ketkar asked the government to explore a scheme to allow inmates conjugal visits with their partners as a step to curb AIDS menace in prison.

The matter Listed for further hearing on 31 May 2019.

-India Legal Bureau

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