Bikram Majithia calls for immediate lifting of ban on jail meetings in prisons across Punjab

Babushahi Bureau

Chandigarh, March 9, 2022:  Former minister Bikram Singh Majithia today requested the Punjab government to lift the ban on jail meetings in State prisons for both convicts and undertrials keeping in view the end of Covid restrictions in all other spheres of public life.

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The former minister has written a letter in this connection to the State chief secretary, the principal secretary, jails as well as the ADGP, Prisons.

In his letter, the senior SAD leader has pointed out that while in judicial custody in Patiala jail on account of a false and politically motivated FIR by the Congress government, it had come to his notice that convicts, as well as under-trials, had been denied visitation rights since the start of the Covid pandemic for two years now. 

He said this was bring done despite the fact that all Covid restrictions had been done away with in Punjab and even leisure activities like gyms, theatres and restaurants had been allowed to resume.

Asserting that this issue concerned the fundamental rights of prisoners, Bikram Majithia said even other States, including those like Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh which had a higher incidence of Covid than Punjab, had resumed regular prison meetings. 

He said in Punjab even now no physical meeting was being allowed with prisoners were forced to hold online meetings or allowed to meet their family members from a distance.

Calling for an immediate restart of normal visitation rights, Majithia said the prisons should not be subject to a separate set of rules. He said denial of visitation rights to prisoners amounted to adopting double-standards and was leading to an adverse effect on their mental health and emotional well-being. 

He said it was also depriving prisoners of the right to meet their families, manage their affairs and follow up their cases in earnest.

Asserting that as an elected representative he could not keep his eyes and ears shut to the discrimination being meted out to jail inmates, the SAD leader said many of the inmates were women with small children. 

“Some inmates have not seen their newborn babies, others are aged and suffering from chronic diseases while others have old parents who wish to meet them”.

 Majithia also brought it to the notice of the Punjab government officials that the Supreme Court had made it clear in the Sunil Batra versus Delhi Administration case that “visits to prisoners by family and friends are a solace in insulation, and only a dehumanized system can deprive vicarious delight in depriving prison inmates of this humane amenity”. 

He said Rule 549, Chapter XV, Punjab Jail Manual also provided for prison visits by family members and friends of the prisoners. 

He said further, the Model Prison Act 2016 provided for reasonable facilities for visiting or communicating with family members, relatives, friends, and legal advisors.

 Majithia said social interaction was a basic human need and depriving one of the same violated Article 21 of the Constitution and was a gross infringement of human rights. 

“Family visits are a right and not a privilege and depriving them of the little rights that are guaranteed under the constitution and jails rules lead to enormous unjustified suffering”, he told the top State functionaries while calling for an immediate course correction.