Not practical to permit conjugal visits for prisoners in jails : Delhi High Court

Prison authorities have told the Delhi High Court that it is not practical to permit conjugal visits for prisoners as rules do not provide for such facility and there is limited infrastructure available.

The Director General (Prison) said it grants temporary leave to prisoners in the form of parole and furlough for maintaining family and social ties and the purpose of conjugal relation can be served during such period.

A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar listed the matter for February 26 for further hearing.

The response was filed on a PIL seeking conjugal visitation rights for prisoners.

Petitioner Amit Sahni, a lawyer and social activist, has claimed in his plea that conjugal visits in jail should be treated as a fundamental right of prisoners and their spouses.

The prison authorities, in its affidavit filed through Delhi government additional standing counsel Sanjoy Ghose, said conjugal visits inside prison cannot be allowed due to the nature of confinement.

“A prisoner can avail parole’ furlough or interim bail for maintaining family and conjugal rights. In addition to this, prisoners are allowed interviews with spouse, other family members, friends and counsel, hence social contacts are maintained,” it said.

The authorities denied the claim made in the plea that allowing of conjugal visits can help in curbing the menace of sexual crimes in Delhi since the petitioner has failed to explain how a sexual crime committed outside the prison has any relation with conjugal visits in prison as a solution to the menace.

It said that in Delhi, spousal meetings within the prison premises are allowed in terms of provisions of the Delhi Prison Rules 2018 but are monitored for safety and security of the prisoners, visitors and prisons.

In accordance with the established policy, the right to procreation is desirable, however, not practicable in the present prison scenario and the same is being regulated as per procedure established by law, it said.

“The Delhi Prison Act, 2000 and Delhi Prison Rules, 2018 do not permit any conjugal visits inside prison. There is no conjugal visitation programme offered in any closed prison in India. However, opportunity to preserve family ties and marital stability is ensured through regular releases on parole/ furlough/ interim bail,” the affidavit said.

It said there are 1,200 visitations on a daily basis in Tihar Jail alone and allowing conjugal visits in prisons at this time may not be feasible due to limited infrastructure available.

The authorities said no inmate lodged in Delhi prisons has raised any demand for facility of conjugal visits, as sought by Sahni.

For conjugal visits, prior consent and approval of the spouse are required and no such instance of filing any such petition by any spouse of an inmate has been put on record.

As per Delhi Prison Rules 2018, regarding grant of parole/ furlough, a convict prisoner here may be granted total of 8 weeks parole in a year in two spells and 7 weeks of furlough in three different spells per year.

The high court had earlier termed the issue raised in the plea as “very interesting” and sought responses of the Delhi government and the Director General of Prisons on it.

Sahni has said in his petition that presently under the state’s prison rule, meeting between an inmate and his or her spouse takes place in the presence of a prison officer and sought setting aside of the rule.

He has said that “despite courts taking a progressive approach and various countries allowing conjugal visits considering it an important human right and also in the light of studies backing conjugal visits as a factor to cut down crimes in jail and reform inmates, the Delhi Prison Rules, 2018 are totally silent on the issue”.

The petition contended that conjugal visitation rights ought to be provided in prisons in the state as most of the prisoners fall in the sexually active age group.

It has said private meetings with spouse cannot be denied to prisoners on grounds of existing provisions of parole and furlough and added these provisions were anyway not available to undertrial prisoners.

It has said conjugal visits not only ensures fundamental and human rights of those incarcerated, but also their spouses who suffer without any wrong.

It has also contended that various researches have shown that conjugal visits reduce frequency of prison riots, sexual crimes, homosexual behaviour while moving prisoners towards reformation and good behaviour.

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