The Rajasthan Prisons Bill, 2023, was introduced in the Legislative Assembly on March 15, 2023. It seeks to repeal the Rajasthan Prisoners Act, 1960, and the application of the Prisons Act, 1894 in the state. It provides for the establishment and regulation of prisons and oversight of prisoners.
As on 30 June 2023, there were 24,716 inmates in Rajasthan’s prisons. (Jail Population Statistic Report, 2023, Government of Rajasthan, Jail Department). On July 18, 2023, after discussing the Rajasthan Prisons Bill-2023 in the Rajasthan Assembly, the House passed the bill by voice vote.
Prisons Minister Tikaram Julie said that the Rajasthan Prison Bill-2023 has been brought to ensure reformative provisions, basic human rights, their skill development, and vocational training program for the prisoners in the jails of the state.
At present, the 129-year-old Administration and Management Prisons Act-1894 and the 63-year-old Rajasthan Prisons Act-1960 are in force in the state.
The Rajasthan Prisons Bill-2023 has been brought together by integrating various amendments made in these Acts from time to time. This bill will work for the prisoners as well as the officers and employees working in the jails.
The Bill provides that a prisoner may write letters to relatives and friends. The Bill defines the Competent Authority to be declared by the government. This authority has powers including preventive detention of a person, making regulations under the Act and issue orders to control emergency situations.
The Bill provides for the appointment of a Grievance Redressal Committee in each prison for addressing grievances of prisoners. It consists of: (i) superintendent as Chairperson, (ii) jailor, (iii) medical officer, and (iv) welfare officer. If a prisoner is not satisfied with the Committee’s decision, he may appeal to the DIG. All members of the Committee are prison officials and there may be a conflict of interest when complaints are against such officials.
Under the Bill, minor prison offences by prisoners include refusing to eat or going on a hunger strike. For such offences, punishment may include:
(i) formal warning,
(ii) forfeiture of earned remission of ten days,
(iii) loss of privileges of one month. Penalizing hunger strikes may be done to maintain discipline in the prison.
The state shall establish prisons. Separate wards shall be provided based on gender, status of conviction, and nature of offence.
The Director General Prisons shall oversee all prisons. Each prison shall have a Superintendent and a Medical Officer.
Prisoners shall have certain rights including access to law, employment, and basic minimum needs. They will also have duties such as not committing any nuisance and following all rules.
The state government shall formulate a policy for the care, protection, training, and rehabilitation of prisoners including women and young prisoners.