In what could set a welcome precedence, the Madras High Court on Wednesday, January 24, allowed two weeks of leave to a convict serving life imprisonment "for assisting his wife in infertility treatment." The court also urged the government to consider granting the privilege of conjugal visits to all prisoners.
"The convict's wife's legitimate expectation to have a child cannot be declined," pointed out the HC bench of Justices S Vimala Devi and T Krishna Valli. And the court granted the leave for the prisoner considering "the purpose of procreation" which the convicts' wife has been pleading for.
The ruling was given in a petition filed by a 32-year-old woman who requested for temporary release of her husband who has been in jail for 18 years so that they can have a child.
The bench also quoted a 1978 order by Supreme Court which stated, "Whether inside prison or outside, a person shall not be deprived of his guaranteed freedom save by methods, right, just and fair".
"Even though the wife is not under incarceration, but a suffering person outside the prison on account of the marital relationship with the prisoner and her legitimate expectation to have a child cannot be declined," the Madras HC bench observed.
Earlier petitions by the woman seeking the temporary release of her husband had been rejected citing legalities. However, the HC overruled the earlier orders and granted her plea.
One of the convicts' kin said, "We are happy, we struggled for 18 years,"
In fact, the bench seems to have considered the case on humanitarian grounds as it further said that the leave could be extended for a time period of two weeks. "Preliminary investigation has found that there was a possibility of the prisoner having a child," the bench said.
'Conjugal visits might transform a prisoner'
The HC bench also recalled a 2015 legislation which envisaged extending the benefit of conjugal visits to the prisoners. The Centre had noted that conjugal visits are not to be categorised under privilege, but it's a right a prisoner is entitled to and can be utilised when required.
In line with this earlier legislation, the HC bench has now directed the Tamil Nadu government to examine that how conjugal visits can be allowed to prisoners in jail in the state. It also noted that many countries are providing this privilege to convicts.
The court felt that such visits would "help prisoners maintain their relationship with their families, reduce recidivism and motivate and an incentive to good prisoners."
The HC verdict has been welcomed by Twitterati. Here are a few reactions:
Madras High Court while allowing a prisoner to go on leave for assisting his wife for infertility treatment endorsed the allowance of conjugal visits for prisoners.— Murali Krishnan (@legaljournalist) January 25, 2018