Delhi HC mulls over letting prisoners get private time with spouse in jail
Nelson Mandela once said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails and a nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.
Recently, the Delhi High Court has taken a significant step toward addressing the rights of prisoners by directing the Delhi Government to respond to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking conjugal visitation rights for incarcerated individuals across various jails in the national capital.
The concept of conjugal visitation, often referred to as ‘Private Family Visiting,’ entails allowing inmates to spend private time with their legal partners or spouses, including engaging in sexual activity.
A division bench, headed by Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Sanjeev Narula, granted a six-week period to the Delhi Government’s counsel to prepare a response to the plea. The case is scheduled for further hearing on October 9.
Psychologists and psychiatrists have long emphasised the importance of addressing the emotional and psychological needs of prisoners.
Advocates of conjugal visits argue that these visits could play a crucial role in alleviating frustration, tension, and negative emotions among inmates. This, in turn, could contribute to better behavioral outcomes and facilitate prisoners’ reintegration into society.
Amit Sahni, the petitioner who filed the PIL, stated, “While considering the merits and demerits of allowing conjugal visits or permitting leave for the purpose of artificial insemination, the advantages are more than the disadvantages.”
Sahni has also challenged the validity of Rule 608 of the Delhi Prison Rules, 2018.
Rule 608 currently mandates that all meetings with prisoners occur in the presence of a prison officer, who is responsible for observing and monitoring the interaction.
However, international standards, such as the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, commonly referred to as the Nelson Mandela Rules, advocate for uniformity in granting conjugal visits as a part of prisoners’ rights.
In his plea, Sahni seeks a declaration that the right to conjugal visitation is fundamental for prisoners and their spouses. He further requests the Delhi Government and the Director General of Prisons to make necessary arrangements to enable conjugal visitation rights for incarcerated individuals.
Sahni’s PIL highlights the broader implications of denying conjugal visits, suggesting that it could lead to an increase in prison riots and sexual crimes.
Furthermore, Sahni contends that such visitations could aid in prisoners’ rehabilitation and encourage good behavior.
He asserts that the denial of conjugal visits not only affects prisoners but also infringes upon the basic human rights of their spouses, who are being punished without having committed any wrongdoing themselves.
In 2022, Punjab became the first state in the country to launch conjugal visits for jail inmates with good conduct lodged in central jails, allowing the prisoners an opportunity for some intimacy with their spouse during incarceration.