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Indian constitution does not expressly provide the provisions related to the prisoners’ rights but in T.V. Vatheeswaran v. State of Tamil Nadu case, it was held that, the Articles 14, 19 and 21 are available to the prisoners and also to the freemen. Prison walls do not keep out the fundamental rights Article 14 of the Indian Constitution says that the State will not deny to any individual equality under the equal of law or within the territory of India. Along these lines Article 14 thought about ought to be dealt with the same, and furthermore gave the idea of sensible arrangement. Article 19 of the Constitution of India guarantees six freedoms to all citizens in India. Among these freedoms some freedoms cannot be enjoyed by the prisoners because of the very nature of these freedoms. Article 21 of the Constitution of India says that No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure which is established by law. This Article stipulates two concepts, right to life and personal liberty. By Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, it is clear that it is available not only for free people but also for the people who are behind the prison. Following are the rights of prisoners which are implicitly provided under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The rights are Right of inmates of protective homes, Right to free legal aid, Right to speedy trial, Right against cruel and unusual punishment, Right to a fair trial, Right against custodial violence and death in police lock-ups or encounters, Right to live with human dignity. Apart from these rights of prisoners Indian Constitution also provides some other rights to the prisoners they are, Right to meet friends and consult lawyer, right against solitary confinement, right of handcuffing & bar fetters and also the protection from torture, Right to reasonable wages inside the prison. Prisoner’s Rights under the Prisons Act, 1894.Prisons Act of 1894 is the first legislation regarding prison regulations in India. This Act was mainly focused on reformation of prisoners in connection with the rights of prisoners.


  1. Article 14 - Equality before law

  2. Article 20(1) -No person convicted for offence except Violation of law

  3. Article 20(2)-No person prosecuted and punished for the same offence more than once.

  4. Article 21 - Protection of life and personal liberty.

  5. Article 22 - protection against arrest and detention.

Various fundamental rights under Article, 14, 19, 20, 21 and 22 of the Constitution of India impliedly deal with the rights of prisoners. Article 14 deals with the right to equality which provides equality before law and equal protection of law to all persons. Article 21 deals with the right to life and personal liberty. Article 20 deals, inter alia, with two things, firstly it prohibits double jeopardy, that is, no person should be convicted for the same offence twice. Secondly, it prohibits self-incrimination, that is, no one can be compelled to be a witness against himself. Article 22 provides that a person must be produced before a magistrate within 24 hours of his arrest and must be provided with a counsel of his own choice. Famous constitutional writer Upendar Baxi has opined that scope of Article 21 is so vast that we do not need any other rights in our Constitution, and in the light of the Supreme Court’s ‘construction’ of the meaning of ‘life’ under Article 21, whereby all the rights such as right to health, right to food, right to shelter, right to bail, right to speedy trial, right to free legal aid, right against custodial violence and death in police lock-ups or encounters, Right to meet friends and family members, Right to reasonable wage in prison, right against cruel and unusual punishment etc., have been included under it.


In the case of Kharak Singh v. State of U.P. (1964), where the Court expounded the connotation of the word ‘life’ under Article 21, “Something more than mere animal existence. The inhibition against its deprivation extends to all those limbs and faculties by which life is enjoyed. The provision equally prohibits the mutilation of the body by the amputation of an arm or leg, or the putting out of an eye, or the destruction of any other organ of the body through which the soul communicates with the outer world.”

In the case of AK Gopalan vs State of Madras (1950) where the petitioner was detained in Madras Jail under the Preventive Detention Act, 1950, Supreme Court upheld the detention and held that it did not violate article 21 as it was done as per ‘procedure established by law’. The same position was reiterated by the Court in the case of ADM Jabalpur vs. Shiv Kant Shukla (1976) that during emergency the ambit of life and liberty gets suspended. But in the landmark case of Maneka Gandhi vs. Union of India (1978) the Apex Court broadened the scope of ‘life’ under Article 12 and held that any procedure made by the State must be just and reasonable. This case opened the floodgates for the rights of the people and the construction of Article 21 by the courts, whereby every basic right needed for the survival for the human has been included in it.



It is the same that the prisoners are entitled to any or all his basic rights whereas they're behind the prisons. Indian Constitution doesn't expressly provide for the prisoners’ rights however Articles fourteen, nineteen and twenty one implicitly secured the prisoners’ rights and also the provisions of the Prisons Act, 1894 contains the provisions for the welfare and protection of prisoners. The Court has ruled that it will intervene with jail administration once constitutional rights or statutory prescriptions are transgressed to the injury of the unfortunate. The Supreme Court in several cases commands that the unfortunate may be an individual, a natural person and conjointly a legal person. Being an unfortunate person doesn't stop to be somebody's being, natural person or legal person. Conviction for against the law doesn't cut back the person into a non-person, whose rights are subject to the whim of the jail administration and so, the imposition of any major penalty inside the jail system is conditional upon the absence of procedural safeguards.

- Vaishali.R and Prabhakaran

Saveetha School of Law,


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