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Rajasthan HC asks State Government to ensure that Prisoners are not forced to do menial jobs based on Caste

Rajasthan HC asks State Government to ensure that Prisoners are not forced to do menial jobs based on Caste
Inquiring about the proposed steps for complete overhauling of the Prison Manual, the Rajasthan High Court on Thursday (17th December 2020) asked the State Government to ensure that the prisoners are not forced to indulge in menial jobs like cleaning toilers etc. merely on the basis of their caste and also that no under trial prisoner is forced to perform such jobs in prison.

The Bench of Justice Devendra Kachhawaha and Justice Sandeep Mehta further directed-

“Considering the progressive democratic set up of our country and in order to ensure maintenance of proper hygiene in the prisons, it would be expedient in the interest of justice that the State Government considers installation of mechanized/automated cleaning facilities in all the prisons in the State of Rajasthan.”

The Court was hearing two separate writ petitions filed by a Jodhpur based prisoners’ rights lawyer, Kaluram Bhati, seeking adequate open-air prisons in Rajasthan.

The petitions also raised concern over the numbers of prisoners who drop out die to te dated Rajasthan Prisoners Open Air Camp Rules of 1972.

The Court’s observation has been discussed in the ensuing paragraphs:

“Recently, we have come across a very disturbing report published on a website regarding existence of a caste based work assignment system in the prisons in Rajasthan.”

(The report is based on a research paper of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)

The Court also noted:

“As per the report, every person, who enters a prison in the State, is asked about his caste and once identified, menial jobs like cleaning toilets, sweeping the prisons etc. are assigned to the persons from the lowest echelons in the society irrespective of the nature of the offence committed.”

The said report also refers to the fact that the Prison Manuals of various states are still plagued by the archaic and derogatory caste system, which the Constitution of India pledged to eradicate.

The Court said:

“We are of the firm view that no under trial prisoner can be assigned such duties in a prison”

The Court finally observed:

“We, therefore direct the learned Additional Advocate General Mr. Farzand Ali to apprise the court regarding the proposed steps to complete overhauling of the Prison Manual and to ensure that the prisoners are not forced to indulge in menial jobs lie cleaning toilets etc. merely on the basis of their caste and also that no under trial prisoner is forced to perform such jobs in the prison. Rather, considering the progressive democratic set up of our country and in order to ensure maintenance of proper hygiene in the prisons, it would be expedient in the interest of justice that the State Government considers installation of mechanized/automated cleaning facilities in all the prisons in the State of Rajasthan.”

Mr. Farzand Ali shall file a detailed response to the aforesaid observations by the next date of hearing, which is listed on 4th January, 2021.


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