KOCHI: A 33-year-old undertrial prisoner has approached the court describing the mental trauma he has to endure following the “invasive and indiscriminate” strip search by officials whenever he is taken back to jail after attending court proceedings.
Danish alias Krishna of Coimbatore, who was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for his alleged Maoist links, approached the NIA Court in Kochi against strip searching at Central Prison in Thiruvananthapuram.
In his petition, Danish elaborated on the harassment, humiliation and ignominy he has to suffer. Considering the plea, NIA Court judge Anil K Bhaskar passed an interim order directing the superintendent of Central Prison not to subject Danish to stripping on every occasion when he is taken back to the jail after attending the court proceedings without being satisfied that he attempted to smuggle prohibited article into the jail.
“Right to live with dignity is an inalienable one. Strip search enforced as a routine practice prima facie injures the prisoner’s personal dignity. Indignity is a serious concern and the court shall act at once. Therefore, I find it justifiable to pass an interim order,” the judge said.
“It is needless to say that when the petitioner’s body is searched (without stripping) or when he is frisked, if anything is found suspicious in his cavities or otherwise, further stages of the search are absolutely legal. But that should be an exception and not a routine practice and the reasons for the same should be put in writing,” the court added.
When contacted, a senior officer of the prisons department said the officers are forced to do a thorough screening of the prisoners returning to the prison because there have been repeated attempts by inmates to bring in banned items and contraband to the jail by hiding them in body cavities.
“On many occasions, we have recovered drugs and other items hidden in the private areas. We do strip search only when we have strong leads that a particular person is hiding something,” the officer said.