A petition filed in the Delhi High Court has said that conjugal visits, away from the scrutiny of prison officials, are a “fundamental right.”
Citing practices in several other countries, the Delhi government told the court that a proposal regarding prisoners’ rights to seek conjugal visits has been forwarded to the state’s Home Department. A Division Bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Sanjeev Narula was hearing a petition urging the Delhi government and DG (Prisons) to make suitable arrangements in jails for conjugal visits by prisoners’ spouses.
This public interest litigation (PIL) was originally filed in May 2019, leading to the High Court issuing notices to relevant authorities. The above-mentioned proposal is also set to be conveyed to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs for the issuance of necessary guidelines.
The Bench has granted the Delhi government six weeks to provide updates following its recommendation, and has posted the matter for hearing on January 15, 2024.
The PIL aims to challenge the state’s prison rule, which currently requires the presence of a jail officer during prisoner-spouse meetings, and also sought to declare conjugal visits a “fundamental right” for inmates.
The petition highlights that despite most prisoners being within a sexually active age bracket, they are denied conjugal visitation.
It points out the progressive approach taken by courts in various countries, considering conjugal visits an important human right and their potential to reduce crimes within prisons.
The petition stresses that prisoners should not be denied private meetings with their spouses based on the existing provisions of parole and furlough within the Indian penal system, particularly as these options are not available to undertrial inmates.
Furthermore, it asserts that conjugal visits are not only essential for enforcing the fundamental human rights of incarcerated individuals but also vital for the well-being of their spouses who are suffering without any wrongdoing on their part.