Judicial Dictionary

Prison torture

Prison torture is not beyond the reach of Supreme Court in its constitutional jurisdiction Were there a modicum of truth in the disclosures made of vice and violence, overt and covert, in the goings on in Tihar such an institutional outrage would make our constitutional culture blush and our judicial punishment ‘guilty’ procedure. And on the materials placed before us there is ground enough to exercise our exceptional but undoubted jurisdiction to ensure some minimum of social hygiene and banishment of licentious excesses lest the sentence of Court be frustrated in its dual ends of deterrence and rehabilitation by prison pathology.

When police and prison torture is escalating in our human rights era, courts owe a duty to society not to ignore such a dangerous reality. “At this time the lack of law and order is especially of prime concern. Our courts must bear their share of blame and shame for this condition.

We are conscious that correctional orientation and cautious humanization have changed the attitudes of many jail officials. To blame them is beyond our purpose or power but to protect the caged humans from torture, gross or subtle, beyond what the law permits in our function, indeed, our duty. From this perspective we may rapidly survey the circumstances and could the reliefs.

Kaushik, a ‘lifer’ (to use jail jargon), now lodged in the Tihar Central Jail, has moved this quasi-habeas corpus petition wherein he bitterly complains with facts and figures, of the terror and horror, physical and psychic, let loose on him and other jail-mates by a crypto-criminal combination of senior officials and superior prisoners, thereby making the prison life within that walled world such a trauma and torment the law never meant under the sentence suffered at the hands of the court.

Having regard to all these instructions we make the following directions:

(1) The District and Sessions Judge, Delhi, will within three months from today, hold an open enquiry within the jail premises, into the allegations contained in the petition of the prisoner Kaushik and in the report submitted to this Court by Advocate, Shri Subodh Markandeya.

(2) He will further enquire, with specific reference to the charges of personal assault and compulsion for collaboration in canteen swindle and other vices made by the prisoner against the Superintendent and the Deputy Superintendent.

(3) He will go into the question of the directives issued in the concluding portion of Sunil Batra’s case (W.P. No. 1009 of 1979) : (AIR 1980 SC 1579) with a view to ascertain whether these directions have been substantially complied with and to the extent there is shortfall or default whether there is any reasonable explanation therefore.

(4) Being a visitor of the jail, it is part of his visitatorial functions for the Sessions Judge to acquaint himself with the condition of tension, vice and violence and prisoners’ grievances. He will take this opportunity to enquire into these aspects also with a view to suggest remedial Action.


Ref:  Rakesh Kaushik-AIR 1981 SC 1767 : (1980) 3 SCR 929 : (1980) Suppl. SCC 183 : (1981) CriLJ SC 1438

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