Observing that prisoners cannot claim a right to co-ordinated strikes — as maintaining discipline and ensuring security in a prison is more important — the Bombay high court,in a recent order, approved the transfer of several prisoners from Nashik Central Jail to Yerwada after they staged a hunger strike, demanding better food, easier parole and furlough guidelines.
A bench led by Justice V K Tahilramani held that “security, peace and discipline in a prison are of paramount importance and must be maintained at all costs.” The bench added that since the hunger strike violated the duties of prisoners as prescribed by the state prison manual, the authorities’ decision to transfer the inmates must not be interfered with.
The bench was hearing a plea filed by inmates of the Nashik Central Jail. As per the plea, several inmates had staged the strike on December 8 and 9 last year. However, after the jail authorities and the Deputy Inspector General of Prisons intervened and had a discussion with the inmates, most relented and called off the strike. However, 25 continued to strike and disciplinary proceedings were initiated against them.
As part of the proceedings, a decision was taken on September 7 to transfer the 25 inmates to Yerwada Central Prison in Pune.
The inmates then filed a plea in the high court, seeking that the transfer be stayed as it was unjustified. They added that they had only staged the strike as they had a right to demand better facilities and swifter action while granting parole and furlough.
The bench rejected the plea saying that the facilities provided to prisoners and the rules regarding parole were guided by the law and “prisoners cannot demand that the law not take its own course.”
“The group of prisoners had formed an unlawful assembly and went on a hunger strike on account of various demands. They thereby held the prison administration to ransom. These demands were all highly unreasonable, not to say untenable. The prisoners deliberately tried to disturb the peace and discipline in the prison. The conduct of the petitioner is such that it causes security concerns. Hence, in view of the rules of the Maharashtra Prison Manual 1979, on grounds of security and expediency, the prisoners are liable to be transferred,” the bench said.