Material for Jail Inmates
NHRC acts on PUCL
Dr. Y.P. Chhibbar, General Secretary PUCL has issued the following statement:
Human Rights Commission has laid down detailed guidelines on the subject
of availability and supply of reading material to the prisoners. It has
recommended to the competent authorities in all States and Union Territories
to modify the existing rule and practices prevailing in prisons wherever
they might be at variance with these guidelines.
of the Commission was formulated as a result of a letter from Dr. Y.P.
Chhibbar, General Secretary PUCL.
"Dr. Y.P. Chhibbar
had written to the Commission in March 15, 1998 that according to the
Jansatta Delhi and The Indian Express Delhi of January 18, 1998 an inmate
of Goa's Central Jail was denied the facility to receive reading material
from outside. The inmate, Sudhir Sharma, a former
student of Delhi University, was undergoing a sentence of 10 years' imprisonment
in the Goa Central Jail. He wrote to the editor of a magazine and to some
authors for sending reading materials to him. When the reading material
reached the jail, these were not given to him. This seemed to be in contravention
of a 1979 Supreme Court ruling saying, "
all other freedoms
belong to him [a prisoner], to read and write
to creative comforts
to movement within the prison campus
to the minimal joy of self-expression
to enquire skills
all other fundamental rights tailored to the limitations
of imprisonment" belong to him.
"The Commission considered the letter from Dr. Y.P. Chhibbar and
formulated the following guidelines. These guidelines have "already
been sent to the Chief Secretary of all the States/UTs for being circulated
to all concerned persons in their respective jurisdiction for compliance
on the question of supply/availability of reading material to the prisoners.
The Commission has
been seized with the question of the nature and extent of reading materials
to which prisoners should have access.
considered this matter, the Commission would like to lay down the following
guidelines on this subject:
- As prisoners have
a right to a life with dignity even while in custody, they should be
assisted to improve and nurture their skills with a view to promoting
their rehabilitation and becoming productive citizens. Any restrictions
imposed on a prisoner in respect of reading materials must therefore
- In the light of
the foregoing, all prisoners should have access to such reading materials
as are essential for their recreation or the nurturing of their skills
and personality, including their capacity to pursue their education
while in prison.
- Every prison should,
accordingly, have a library for the use of all categories of prisoners,
adequately stocked with both recreational and instructional books, and
prisoners should be encouraged to make full use of it. The materials
in the library should be commensurate with the size and nature of the
- Further, diversified
programmes should be organized by the prison authorities for different
groups of inmates, special attention being paid to the development of
suitable recreational and educational materials for women prisoners
or for those who may be young or illiterate. The educational and cultural
background of the inmates should also be kept in mind while developing
- Prisoners should,
in addition, generally be permitted to receive reading material from
outside, provided such material is reasonable in quantity and is not
prohibited for reasons of being obscene or tending to create a security
risk. Quotas should not be set arbitrarily for reading materials. The
quantity and nature of reading material provided to a prisoner should,
to the maximum extent possible, take into account the individual needs
of the prisoner.
- In assessing the
content of reading materials the Superintendent of the Jail should be
guided by law; he should not exercise his discretion arbitrarily.
recommends that the above-stated guidelines be used by the competent authorities,
in all States and Union Territories, to modify the existing rules and
practices prevailing in prisons wherever they might be at variance with
(The PUCL State branches may take up the matter with the appropriate authorities
for the follow up action. Director General of Prisons or the Minister
in-charge of jails may be contacted - Y.P. Chhibbar, General Secretary,