MP High Court bats for prisoners’ right to health, calls for setting up PHCs in prisons

The court has sought a report from the state government in this regard and aims to follow up on how absence of basic medical care in prisons affects human rights of prisoners

Right to health

In a significant move batting for Right to Health of prisoners, the Madhya Pradesh High Court has directed the state government to establish Primary Health Centres (PHC) in prison premises to maintain the health of prisoners. 

The bench of Justices Sheel Nagu and Rajeev Kumar Shrivastava made this observation while dealing with the request of a convict to extend his suspension of sentence so that he can get good medical care for his ailments. The court found that many such application were being filed before it for want of good medical facilities in prisons and it has thus vouched for better health care facilities in prisons while upholding the human rights of prisoners.

This is the fourth application filed by the appellant under section 389(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) for grant of suspension of his sentence. He was convicted for murder in 2017. His sentences was suspended in June for 90 days and that period effectively ending on September 11, he was seeking extension of the same. His counsel argued that he was 65 years old and suffering from heart ailment that required further treatment. He submitted that continuous treatment and monitoring for his heart ailment is necessary which is not available in prison. He also stated that effective transport system for seriously ill patients (prisoners) from jail to hospital is also not available.

The court thus granted him the extension of another 90 days. However, the court also observed that many such applications were being filed mentioning grounds for medical treatment for releasing prisoners. The court observed that the ratio of doctors in prisons is very low. It also observed that primary healthcare facilities are not available in jail dispensaries and also secured transportation to hospital outside jail premises is not available.

The court has thus advised the state government to provide primary health services to the prisoners by keeping their records up-to date and to ensure that at least one primary health center should be established in jail campus having facilities to treat the ailments relating to heart, kidney, liver etc. The court has also asked the state to ensure that Specialist/Experts relating to aforesaid various ailments be provided in such primary health center to the prisoners.

The court also drew attention to the Supreme Court judgement in Parmanand Katara vs. Union of India & Ors.[AIR 1989 SC 2039] whereby, various directions have been given for the betterment of medical facilities in jail custody.

“Under the Constitution of India, role of judiciary in protecting the rights of the prisoners has been specified and judiciary has an obligation and a constitutional role to protect human rights of citizen as per the mandate of the Constitution. The prisoners are also human beings and their human rights are required to be safeguarded, as observed in the judgment passed by the Apex Court in the case of Hussainara Khatoon & Ors. vs. Home Secretary, State of Bihar:[AIR 1979 SC 1369],” the court observed.

The court has sought a detailed report from the state on these lines and the matter has been listed for first week of October.

The complete order may be read here:

Prisoners and right to health

The Model Prison manual, 2016 released by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) enumerates rights of prisoners which includes health under ‘right to basic minimum needs’ which states that prisoners have “Right to fulfillment of basic minimum needs such as adequate diet, health, medical care and treatment, access to clean and adequate drinking water, access to clean and hygienic conditions of living accommodation, sanitation and personal hygiene, adequate clothing, bedding and other equipment.” Under the heading of “housing”, the manual states that “All accommodation provided for use of prisoners, particularly for sleeping, will meet basic requirements of healthy living.”

Under section 4.07.4, it puts the onus of medical care and health of prisoners on the medical personnel within prisons. It states that the medical personnel must “ensure the maintenance of minimum standards of hygienic conditions in the prison premises”. Medical care includes preventive care, curative care as well as general care with respect to admission in prison hospital. In Chapter VII titled “Medical Care”, the manual gives detailed guidelines on management of prison hospitals and what speciality of doctors should be available in such hospitals.

Under various sub-headings, the manual deals with the duties of the Chief Medical Officer which includes daily visits to prisons, attending to special needs of aged prisoners, treatment of drug addicts, control of diets and so on.

The complete analysis on Prisoners’ right to health may be read here.


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