State prison authorities were pulled up by the Bombay High Court on Friday for enforcing prison uniforms on undertrials facing murder charges.
The court said prima facie the rule appeared discriminatory.
“We feel there must be some balance between prison rules and the rights of the prisoners to equality,” observed a division bench of Justice Ranjana Desai and Justice Mridula Bhatkar, while hearing a plea filed by an undertrial, Dhanesh Shivdasan.
Shivdasan, who is lodged in the Thane Central Prison, had written a letter to the high court, saying that despite an earlier order of the court, prisoners facing murder charge were made to wear uniforms.
He had challenged the concerned rule contending it was discriminatory and humiliating.
His court appointed lawyer Indu Verma, argued that the rule was discriminatory as all other undertrials, including rape and terrorism related accused persons, were allowed wear civil clothes.
Public prosecutor Vitthal Konde-Deshmukh replied to the query saying that rule 5 of the Maharashtra Prison Rules required murder accused to wear prison uniform.
The uniform helps prison authorities to identify the murder accused, because of the serious nature of the offence allegedly committed by them, he added.
However, the reply failed to impress the judges. “Why only murder accused be asked to wear the prison uniform?” asked Justice Ranjana Desai adding, “There must be some rationality in your rules.”
The petitioner’s lawyer also suggested that prison authorities could ask murder accused to wear a band on their civil clothes. The suggestion was taken into consideration by the prosecutor.
The judges sought for the explanation justifying the rule requiring murder accused wear uniforms similar to that of convicts.
The court has given two weeks to the prison authorities to justify the rule.