It is most refreshing, most rejuvenating, most remarkable and most righteous that the Rajasthan Government on 02 February, 2021 issued a notification removing amending provisions allowing caste/religion-based allocation of labour in jails. It must be mentioned here that these amendments have been introduced after the Rajasthan High Court recently took the most commendable, courageous and composed decision to ask the State Government in no uncertain terms to ensure actually that the prisoners are not forced to indulge in menial jobs like that of cleaning toilets etc merely on the basis of their caste which has to be applauded to the fullest. Even though this is coming after more than 73 years of independence which is a crying shame but as the famous adage goes that, “It is better to be late than never”.
It is worth noting here that the Bench of Justice Devendra Kachhawaha and Justice Sandeep Mehta of Rajasthan High Court had further directed that, “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.”
It is also worth mentioning here that the amendments have been done by the State Government in exercise of the power conferred by Section 59 of The Prisons Act, 1894. It must also be stated here that in this significant development, the Rajasthan Prisons (Amendment) Rules, 2021 has amended Rule 67 of Section II of Part 9, Rule 13 of Section I of Part 10 and Rule 27 of Section I of Part 15 [existing clause (d) stands deleted now] of ‘Rajasthan Prisons Rules 1951’.
It is really good to see that the amended Rule 67 of Section II of Part 9 now states, inter alia that, “No inmate shall be selected for cooking on the basis of his caste or religion.” The outgoing provision read thus: “The cooks shall be of the non-habitual class. Any Brahmin or sufficiently high caste Hindu prisoner from this class is eligible for appointment as cook”.
It would also be pertinent to mention here that the amended Rule 13 of Section I of Part 10 now states, inter alia, that, “No tradesman shall be chosen on the basis of his caste or religion”. The outgoing provision read thus: “Sweepers shall be chosen from among those who, by the custom of the district in which they reside or on the account of their having adopted the profession, perform sweepers work when free”. It is most satisfying to see that such obnoxious, derogatory and deriding persons on bais of his/her caste/religion now stands amended to end forever such condemnable discrimination as we are discussing here!
It is also deserving to mention here that earlier, clause (d) of Rule 27 of Section I of Part 15 stated that any member of a criminal tribe subject to the discretion of the Government shall be liable to be classed as habitual criminals. But much to the satisfaction of all of us who believe in equality of all human beings we now see that with this latest amendment, the clause (d) of this Rule now stands deleted. Very rightly so!
It is high time and now all such shameful discriminatory caste practices prevalent inside prisons across different states in India must be abolished without any further delay not just in Rajasthan alone as we are seeing now but in each and every State of India where we see such raw discrimination still prospering, flourishing and thriving without any check whatsoever! Even a research paper of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiaitive (CHRI) had thrown abundant light in this regard which compelled even the Rajasthan High Court to take note of most seriously!
Taking cognizance of reports published in media also, the Rajasthan High Court in December 2020 had noted that, “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 lowest echelons in the society irrespective of the nature of the offence committed.”
It is also important to note that the said report also refers to the fact that the Prison Manuals of various states are still plagued by the archaic and the derogatory caste system, which the Constitution of India pledged to eradicate. But what an unberatable supreme irony that even after more than 73 years of independence it still remains a pipe dream! The Rajasthan High Court also very rightly said that, “We are of the firm view that no under trial priosner can be assigned such duties in a prison”.
All said and done, it is good to see that at least in Rajasthan now we see that a very good initiative has been taken to ensure that there is no caste discrimination in Rajasthan jails based on caste or religion. All states must emulate Rajasthan in this regard without fail and as promptly as possible! Just like Rajasthan High Court took the initiative here in this regard similarly all the High Courts in their respective states must accordingly act in this direction to ensure that such brutal, raw and worst discrimination on basis of caste or religion becomes a thing of the past! Very rightly so! There can be no denying or disputing it!