The states of Punjab and Haryana have finally decided to do away with solitary confinement. No convict, until his death sentence is confirmed by the President of India’s office, will be kept in solitary confinement. The decision has been taken in the wake of a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by advocate Navkiran Singh in the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
Navkiran had brought to the court’s notice a 1978 judgment of the Supreme Court in which certain directions were laid down with regard to solitary confinement. The decision taken by the two states will benefit a total of 27 such convicts who have been awarded death sentence and their mercy petitions are pending in the President’s office.
While 16 such convicts were awarded capital punishment by Punjab courts, eleven are lodged in various jails of Haryana. Their death sentences have been upheld by the apex court and they are awaiting decision on their mercy petitions. Speaking to The Indian Express, Additional Advocate General for Punjab Rupinder Singh Khosla said: “No convict whose mercy petition has not been decided by the President will be kept in solitary confinement. They will be kept with other convicts now.”
Superintendents of each jail in Punjab have filed their affidavits assuring that no convict is now being kept in solitary confinement.
Navkiran Singh told The Indian Express that he would file PILs before the courts of other states, too, seeking release of prisoners being kept in solitary confinement. “It is sad that states do not realise their responsibilities and have to be given wake-up calls. The judgment was given by the Supreme Court in 1978 and is applicable to all states,” he added.