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Illegal Solitary Confinement

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The Persecuted Prisoners Solidarity Committee (PPSC) condemns the arbitrary and illegal manner in which the Giridih Central Jail administration has imposed solitary confinement on undertrials arrested following the crackdown on the Mazdoor Sangathan Samiti (MSS). The MSS, a registered trade union, was banned on 22 December 2017 by Jharkhand, following which, scores of persons were booked under four first information reports (FIRs)—Ajay Hembrum, Mohan Murmu, Daya Chand Hembrum and Damodar Turi—continue to face incarceration as a result. Turi is not even a member of the MSS. They, along with other undertrial prisoners, have been kept in solitary confinement since 23 March 2018. In response, the prisoners went on a hunger strike on 27March 2018. Under pressure, since 2 April 2018, the jail administration has allowed the prisoners to mingle with other prisoners only twice a day for two hours. This continues to be in violation of the constitutional and statutory rights of prisoners as guaranteed by the law of the land.

According to information received from the relatives of these prisoners, the cells in which they have been kept are unclean and without any basic facilities. Relatives have been prevented from giving them basic items like mosquito repellents, food and clothes. The number of visitors and frequency of visits have also been arbitrarily curtailed.

Solitary confinement is envisaged only for convicts—under Sections 73 and 74 of the Indian Penal Code—and that too on compliance of strict statutory conditions. Further, it is only upon the order of a court that such confinement can be authorised (Sunil Batra v Delhi Administration 1978, AIR, SC, p 1675). Internationally, solitary confinement is recognised as a form of torture and India is a signatory to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, 1987.

In Jharkhand, apart from the move being illegal, it is part of the series of repressive measures following the ban on the MSS and the arrests of its members. The MSS was arbitrarily declared to be an unlawful association under Section 16 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1908, and accused of being a “frontal organisation of the Communist Party of India (Maoist)—CPI(Maoist).” However, the MSS has been working for the rights of doli mazdoor and other workers since 1989 in Giridih, Bokaro, Dhanbad, Hazaribagh, Ranchi, Ramgarh, Gaya, Kharsawan and Jhalda districts of Jharkhand. It has a membership of around 22,000 workers. The organisation has also exposed the fake encounter killing of one of its members Motilal Baske in June 2017, and has been protesting against the amendments to the land laws—Chotanagpur Tenancy Act, 1908 and Santhal Pargana Act, 1949—aimed at dispossessing Adivasis and Moolvasis of their land. As part of the ongoing repression, the government has also banned another organisation, the Popular Front of India (PFI) in February leading to three FIRs, arrests of its members and sealing of their offices. The PFI has been involved in exposing the role of the administration and cow vigilante groups in lynching of Muslims and intimidation of their families.

The PPSC demands that: the ban on the MSS and PFI be revoked; cases against members of the MSS and PFI be withdrawn; and persons incarcerated be released immediately.

Stan Swamy, Sudha Bhardwaj

Persecuted Prisoners Solidarity Committee

Updated On : 7th Apr, 2018

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