Right to have a conjugal life and procreation within jail premises is a component of Article 21 of the Constitution

Punjab and Haryana High Court: In a path breaking decision, the Court while answering a vital question that whether jail inmates have a right to have a conjugal life and procreation within the jail premises and whether such right comes under Article 21 of the Constitution, positively observed that Article 21 effectively covers this right for jail inmates which are however to be regulated by the procedures established by law. In furtherance of the observation, the Court issued direction to the State of Punjab to constitute a Jail Reforms Committee to be headed by a former High Court judge in order to undertake prison reforms with respect to provision of conjugal visits for the jail inmates.

In the present case, the petitioners who had been convicted under various provisions of IPC for murdering a 16 yr old for ransom, had moved a petition demanding enforcement of their right to have a conjugal life and procreate within the jail premises. Counsel for the petitioners G.K. Mann’s arguments centered on Article 21 of the Constitution through which it was contended that a prisoners too enjoy Fundamental Rights including the most important ‘right to life’ of which procreation is an important aspect. The arguments of the petitioners were vehemently opposed by the State of Punjab by submitting that Prisons Act, 1894 and Punjab Jail Manual does not provide any specific provisions to allow conjugal visitations. The Court was assisted by Amicus Curiae, Anupam Gupta who presented before the Court relevant material on this issue in form of Supreme Court decisions, international conventions on human rights and several land mark foreign court judgments.

Perusing the contentions and the relevant material on the point, the Court discussed at length the scenario whereby it observed that right to conjugal visits, procreation and artificial insemination has been recognized world over even if partially. The Court further observed that conjugal visits and procreation are a component of right to live with dignity therefore under the ambit of Article 21. The Court while observing that imprisonment takes away some of the fundamental rights, thus a legal hindrance in effectuating the right of procreation issued directions to the State for the Constitution of Jail Reforms Committee to formulate schemes for creation of conducive environment for conjugal visits; evaluate the option of expanding the reach of open prisons; classify the convicts who are to be or not to be allowed conjugal visits etc. The Court however did not find the petitioners eligible for the relief sought by them. Jasvir Singh v. State of Punjab2014 SCC OnLine P&H 22479decided on 29.05.2014


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