MHA warns states/UTs against caste-based discrimination in prisons | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

MHA warns states/UTs against caste-based discrimination in prisons

ByNeeraj Chauhan
Feb 29, 2024 11:53 AM IST

Home ministry advises states to remove discriminatory provisions from prison manuals segregating prisoners based on caste/religion, citing constitutional violations.

New Delhi: Union home ministry has asked the prison administrations in all the states and union territories to ensure that their respective prison manual or act doesn’t contain any “discriminatory” provisions which provide for segregation of prisoners based on their caste and religion, according to an advisory issued by the ministry.

The action comes about two months after the Supreme Court issued notice to the Centre and 11 states (Representative Photo)
The action comes about two months after the Supreme Court issued notice to the Centre and 11 states (Representative Photo)

The ministry pointed out that instances of such prison manuals or acts have come to its notice, which is against the constitution of India.

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The action comes about two months after the Supreme Court issued notice to the Centre and 11 states on a public interest litigation (PIL) which alleged caste-based discrimination and segregation of prisoners in jails and sought a direction to repeal provisions that mandate such practices under the state prison manuals.

Also Read: SC notice to Centre, 11 states on PIL alleging caste-based discrimination in jails

The petition filed by journalist Sukanya Shantha was based on a report compiled by the petitioner in 2020 alleging caste-based discrimination being perpetrated through jail manuals.

In its latest advisory to principal secretaries (home department or jails) and director generals of prisons of states/UTs, sent on February 26, the ministry of home affairs (MHA) said, “It has come to the notice of this ministry that the jail manuals of some states provide for segregation of prisoners on the basis of their caste and religion and they are being assigned duties in the prisons accordingly. It may be noted that the constitution of India prohibits any kind of discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, place of birth etc”.

The MHA asked states/UTs to take note of the issue and “ensure that their state prison manual or prison act should not contain such discriminatory provisions.”

“In case any such provision exists, immediate steps must be taken to amend/remove the discriminatory provision from the manual/act. It is reiterated that there should be no caste-based assignment of duties or work in the prisons,” it said.

The home ministry highlighted that a model prison manual, 2016, has been prepared by and has repeatedly asked states to adopt it.

“The model prison manual, 2016, prepared by the MHA and circulated to all states and UTs in May 2016, explicitly prohibits caste and religion-based discrimination of prisoners in management of kitchen or cooking of food on caste or religious basis. The manual also provides that any special treatment to a group of prisoners belonging to a particular caste or religion is strictly prohibited. It further provides that no classification of prisoners shall be allowed on grounds of socio-economic status, caste or class,” the MHA communication states.

The Centre, last year, also finalised a comprehensive ‘model prison act, 2023,’ which allows security assessment and segregation of prisons, separate wards for women and transgenders and punishment for conniving jail staff.

The advisory further asks states to update the database of the prisoners on the e-prisons platform regularly and also ensure that the information is entered in all columns and no field is left blank.

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