By: Sanjeev Verma
The Punjab and Haryana High Court has allowed conjugal visits and artificial insemination facility for jail inmates subject to certain conditions.
Ruling that ‘right to life and personal liberty’ guaranteed by the Constitution also includes the right of convicts or jail inmates to have conjugal visits and artificial insemination, the court said the same would be regulated by a legally established procedure that will be the sole prerogative of the state. Till date, nowhere in India are jail inmates permitted to have conjugal visits or artificial insemination facility.
Justice Surya Kant made it clear that ordinarily all convicts, unless reasonably classified, are entitled to the right to procreation while incarcerated.
“Such a right, however, is to be regulated as per the policy established by the state which may deny the same to a class or category of convicts as the aforesaid right is not an absolute right and is subject to the penological interests of the state,” he added.
The court directed the Punjab government to constitute a jail reforms committee, headed by a former High Court judge, to formulate a scheme for creation of an environment for conjugal and family visits for jail inmates and to identify categories of inmates entitled to such visits. Other members of the committee shall include a social scientist, an expert in jail reformation and prison management, amongst others.
Justice Surya Kant, however, declined the prayer for conjugal rights and to procreate within Patiala central jail premises made by petitioners Jasvir Singh and Sonia Singh. The husband has been sentenced to death while the wife’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment by the Supreme Court. They were convicted for kidnapping and murdering the 16-year-old son of a Hoshiarpur jeweller, Abhi Verma, in 2005.
“The circumstances which led to the petitioners’ incarceration are far grave in nature and different from those where one of the spouses was totally innocent and possessory of all human rights without any curtailment, unlike the instant case where both of them are convicts,’’ said Justice Kant.
The judge added that even the most liberal view taken by some of the European or American courts would not justify the claim put forth by the petitioners.
The court said, “The penological interest of the state ought to permit the creation of facilities for the exercise of right to procreation during incarceration, may be in a phased manner… however, the same is subject to reasonable restrictions, social order and security concerns.”