MADURAI: The Madurai Bench of Madras High Court observed that Rule 531 of Tamil Nadu Prison Rules, 1983, which states that every interview with a prisoner shall take place in the presence of an experienced prison officer, would have to be read down as inapplicable during meetings between spouses.
Justice G R Swaminathan made this observation while allowing a remand prisoner Mohamed Shalin, who was imprisoned in connection with a bomb blast case in Bengaluru, to meet his ailing wife.
Justice Swaminathan held that ‘Right to Life’ and ‘Personal Liberty’ guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution include the right of convicts or jail inmates to have conjugal visits. He refused to accept the contention of the government counsel that the meeting between the prisoner and his wife could happen only in presence of the escort police, by citing the right to privacy and dignity of the prisoner and his wife.
Pointing out Section 122 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, which treats the communication between spouses during marriage as privileged, and certain recent rulings of the Supreme Court, the Judge opined that unless the Rule 531 of Tamil Nadu Prison Rules was read down, the right to dignity inhering in the prisoner and his spouse would certainly be infringed.
Observing thus, the Judge directed the prison authorities to take Shalin under escort to his wife on May 29 so that the inmate can be with her from 10 am to 5 pm. “During the said meeting, close blood relatives of the prisoner alone shall be present. The escort police shall respect the privacy of the prisoner and his wife,” the Judge said and disposed of the petition.