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In 1983, while resolving the case of T.V. Vatheeswaran v State of Tamil Nadu, the Indian Supreme Court was first drawn to the issue of prisoners' rights. The court ruled that inmates have the same basic fundamental rights as freemen under Part III of the Indian Constitution's "Articles 14, 19, and 21." The court went on to say that prison walls can't keep fundamental rights out.

While deciding numerous cases, (the cases are discussed below) the Indian Supreme Court expanded the reach of Article 21 of the Constitution: Right to Life and Liberty to cover many other rights for the protection of prisoners while they were in detention.

The following are the rights granted to prisoners under Article 21:

· The right against custodial torture and death in police cells.

· The right against cruel and unusual punishment.

· The right to free legal aid.

· The right to a fair trial.

· The right to a speedy trial.

· The rights of inmates of protective homes.


Rudal Shah v. State of Bihar

Under Article 32 of the Constitution, a case of public interest litigation was filed in the Supreme Court. The petition demanded Rudal Shah's release and compensation for his wrongful arrest. Rudal Shah was arrested for the death of his wife in 1953. In 1968, he was cleared of the charges. Even after his acquittal, he remained in prison for another 14 years. The court ordered the state to compensate the petitioner with 30,000 rupees.

Saheli v. Commissioner of Police

Naresh, a nine-year-old child, was beaten to death in this case. The state was ruled responsible for the child's death, which occurred as a result of custodial violence and beating. In this case, the court ordered the state to give the boy's mother 75,000 rupees in compensation.

Nilabeti Behera v. State of Orissa

The issue concerns the death in custody of the petitioner's son, Suman Behera. During his detention, the individual received injuries that culminated in his death, and he was then dumped along a railway track. This is also regarded as a case of fundamental rights violation. The Supreme Court ordered the state to compensate the petitioner in the amount of Rs.1,50,000.

In the case of Nilabati Behera v. State of Orrisa (1993) the Court stated any form of inhumane, cruel, hurtful or torturous treatment all fall under the ambit of Article 21, be it at the time of investigation, interrogation or in any way of police custody. In fact, the guaranteed right of Article 21 cannot be taken away from prisoners in custody, convicts, undertrials or the person detained. D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal (AIR 1997 SC 610) relies on the decision of Nilabati case and in its decision, court gave a list of 12 certain guidelines, these guidelines are:

I. Police officers who carry out the arrest and handle the arrestee's interrogation shall wear correct, conspicuous, and legible identification as well as name togs with their designations. All police officials who handle the arrestee's interrogation must have their information entered in a register.

II. At the time of the arrest, the police officer carrying out the arrest shall create a memo of arrest, which shall be attested by at least one witness, who may be a member of the arrestee's family or a respected person from the region where the arrest is made. It must be countersigned by the arrestee and include the time and date of the arrest.

III. A person who has been arrested or detained and is being held in custody in a police station, interrogation centre, or other lock-up has the right to have one friend, relative, or other person who is familiar with him or has an interest in his welfare informed, as soon as practicable, that he has been arrested and is being detained at the particular location, unless the attesting witness of the memo.

IV. An arrestee's time, place of arrest, and place of custody must be telegraphically notified by the police where the arrestee's next friend or relative lives outside the district or town through the legal Aid Organization in the district and the police station of the area concerned within 8 to 12 hours after the arrest.

V. As soon as a person is arrested or detained, he or she must be informed of their right to have someone informed of their arrest or detention.

VI. At the location of detention, an entry must be made in the diary regarding the arrest of the person, which must include the name of the person's next friend who has been told of the arrest, as well as the names and details of the police officers in charge of the arrestee.