Basic prison decency is an aspect of criminal justice. And the judiciary has a constituency of which prisoners, ordered in by court sentence, are a numerous part. This vicarious responsibility has induced the Supreme Court of the United states to observe.

 “ln a series of decisions this Court held that even though the Governmental purpose be legitimate and substantial, that purpose cannot be pursued by means that broadly Stifle fundamental personal liberties when the end can be more narrowly achieved. The breadth of legislative abridgement must he viewed in the light of less drastic means for achieving the same basic purpose.”[1]

Preparation of Convicts for a law-abiding life

Ex. post facto justification of prison cruelty as prevention of disorder and escape is often a dubious allegation. Another factor often forgotten, while justifying harsh treatment of prisoners, is the philosophy of rehabilitation. The basis is that the custodial staff can make a significant contribution by enforcing the rule of prison law and preparing convicts for a law-abiding life after their release mainstreaming, as it is sometimes called.

Mr. Justice, Stewart in Pall[2] adverted to the twin objectives of imprisonment-

‘An important function of the correction system is the deterrence of crime. The premise is that by confining criminal offenders in a facility where they are isolated from the rest of society, a condition that most people presumably find undesirable, they and others will be deterred from committing additional criminal offences.

This isolation, of course, also serves a protective function by quarantining criminal offenders for a given period of time while, it is hoped, the rehabilitative processes of the corrections system work to correct the offender’s demonstrated criminal proclivity. Thus, since most offenders will eventually return to society, another paramount objective of the corrections system is the rehabilitation of those committed to its custody.

Finally, central to all other corrections goals is the institutional consideration of internal security within the corrections facilities themselves. It is in the light of these legitimate penal objectives that a court must assess challenges to prison regulations based on asserted constitutional rights of prisoners. ‘

The benign purpose behind deprivation of freedom of locomotion and expression is habilitation of the criminal into good behavior, ensuring social defence on his release into the community.

This rationale is subverted by torture- some treatment, antagonism and bitterness which spoil the correctional process.

Fair treatment…. …will enhance the chance of rehabilitation by reactions to arbitrariness. Rehabilitation effort as a necessary component of incarceration is part of the Indian criminal justice system as also of the United states.

This correctional attitude has been incorporated as a standard by the National Advisory Commission on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals:[3]

“.. A rehabilitative purpose is or ought to be implicit in every sentence of an offender unless ordered otherwise by the sentencing court.”

The need of hospital setting of imprisonment

In Mohammad Giasuddin v. state of A.P[4], this Court strongly endorsed the importance of the hospital setting and the therapeutic goal of imprisonment:

“The whole man is a healthy man and very man is born good. Criminality is a curable deviance. Our prisons should be correctional houses, not cruel iron aching the soul. This nation cannot- and, if it remembers its incarcerated leaders and freedom fighters-will not but revolutionize the conditions inside that grim little world. We make these persistent observations only to drive home the imperative of freedom-that its deprivation, lay the state, is validated only by a plan to make the sentence more worthy of that birth right. There is a spiritual dimensional to the first of our Constitution which projects into penology.”

Torture in prison further worsen the malady

All this adds up to the important proposition that it is a crime of punishment to further torture a person undergoing imprisonment, as the remedy aggravates the malady and thus cases to be a reasonable justification for confiscation of personal freedom and is arbitrary because it is blind action not geared to the goal of social defence, which is one of the primary ends of imprisonment. It reversed the process by manufacturing worse animals when they are released into the mainstream of society.

Roger G. Lanphear, in a study. has quoted a telling letter from a prisoner which makes the poignant point.[5]

Dear Mrs. Stender,

You cannot rehabilitate a man through brutality and disrespect. Regardless of the crime a man may commit, he still is a human being and has feeling. And the main reason most inmates in prison today disrespect their keepers is because they themselves (the inmates are disrespected and are not treated like human being; I myself have witnessed brutal attacks upon inmates and have suffered a few myself, uncalled for.

I can understand a guard or guards a restraining an inmate if he becomes violent. But many a time this restraining has turned into a brutal beating. Does this type of treatment bring About respect and rehabilitation? No. It only instils hostility and causes alienation toward the prison officials from the inmate or inmates involved.

If you treat a man like an animal, then you must expect him to act like one. For every action, there is a reaction. This is only human nature. And in order for an inmate to act like a human being you must trust him as Such. Treating him like an animal will only get negative results from him. You can’t spit in his face and expect him to smile and thank you. I have seen this happen also.

There is a large gap between the inmate and prison officials. And it will continue to grow until the prison officials learn that an inmate is no different than them, only in the sense that he has broken a law. He still has feelings, and he’s still human being. And until the big wheels in Sacramento and the personnel inside the prisons start practicing rehabilitation, and stop practising zoology, then the can expect continuous chaos and trouble between inmates and officials.

Lewis Moore”

Prison is itself a penalty

We must heed the wholesome counsel of the British Royal Commission[6] :

“If the suggestion were that, because of enormity of the crime, murderers ought to be subjected to special rigorous treatment, this would run counter to the accepted principle of modern prison administration that imprisonment is itself the penalty and that it is not the function of the Prison as authorities to add further penalties day by day by punitive conditions of discipline, labour diet and general treatment.”


The relevance of the thought that accentuation of injury, beyond imprisonment, may be counter-productive of the therapeutic objective of the penal system will be clear when we test such infliction on the touchstone of Art. 19 and the, reasonableness’ of the action. In depth application of these seminal aspects may be considered after unfolding, the fact-situations in the two cases.

Suffice it to say that, so long as judges are invigorators and enforcers of constitutionality and performance auditors or legality, and convicts serve terms in that grim microcosm called prison but the mandate of the court, a continuing institutional responsibility vests in the system to monitor in the incarceratory process and prevent security ‘excesses’.

Jailors are bound by the rule of law and cannot inflict supplementary sentences under disguises or defeat the primary purposes of imprisonment. additional torture by forced cellular solitude or iron immobilisation- that is the complaint here-stands the peril of being shot down as unreasonable, arbitrary and is perilously near unconstitutionality.[7]

[1] Shelton v. Tucker, 364 US 476 (1950) at p.468

[2] See Substantive Criminal Law by Cherif Bassiouni, p. 115

[3]  61, pg. 43: Quoted in Freedom from Crime by Roger Lanphear, J. r). (Nellore Publishing


[4] 1977 (3) S. C. C. 287.

[5] Regers C. Lamphear Freedom from Crime through TM

[6] Royal Commission on Capital Punishment.

[7] Sunil Batra Etc. vs Delhi Administration; 1978 AIR 1675, 1979 SCR (1) 392