Sad state of affairs for women prisoners, Delhi HC laments while acquitting murder accused

Published on 25 Feb 2017 by Team

Just a few days before International Women’s Day, theDelhi High Court has made some pertinent observations regarding the condition of women prisoners in the capital.The observations came in a judgment penned by Justice Gita Mittal in an appeal by a woman convicted for murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.Allowing her appeal, the Court opined that the prosecution has failed to prove circumstances which cumulatively form a complete chain of events. It therefore, acquitted her.

The woman, who was accused of murdering her mother-in-law, was first found guilty by the Sessions court which sentenced her to rigorous imprisonment for life.

As a result of her conviction, the husband had filed a petition seeking divorce and the accused was left alone to deal with the charges against her.

Acquitting the accused, Mittal J. proceeded to make certain pertinent observations in the judgment about the condition of woman prisoners.

“In several cases involving women prisoners, we are coming across the fact that, apart from the punishment awarded by law, they are suffering a fate worse than just their incarceration. One in which their pain would be endless and knows no reprieve, one for which there can be no legal intervention or legal remedy.”

Besides that, the Court noted that none of the appellant’s family members ever visited her in jail. Instead of ensuring complete investigation in the case, her family members had instead joined hands to create a façade of acrimony between the woman and her mother-in-law to build a case against her.

Observing the difference in treatment meted out to a woman and a man accused of a crime, by the kith and kin of the accused, Justice Mittal stated,

In cases where the man of the family has been accused, or even stands convicted, of extremely gruesome and heinous offences, the entire family rallies around him. Be it the wife and children or parents and siblings, they all not only defend the case vigorously but also do their utmost to secure bail for the alleged offender or suspension of sentence for the male convict.

The Court also observed that the society hardly ever gives a second chance to women prisoners. The Court then gave plausible suggestions to overcome them.

“It is high time that robust programs involving women, prisoners, especially those not educated and from economically weaker sections must be developed in the jail, that is those stretch, beyond the traditional and stereotyped activities of agarbati – jam – pickle – papad making skills for which consumption is scanty or hair dressing, tailoring, beauty care.” 

“Even the illiterate prisoners (women and men) can be imparted skills in such areas which could provide crucial economic opportunity. Training for toddler care may enable the prisoner to develop or assist in crèches and anganwadis, nursery schools etc. These are financially viable options requiring no infrastructure and deserve to be considered.”

As a closing remark, the Court stated that,

“Having undergone the punishment, the prisoners deserve a second chance from society – and not the secondary life long sentence of social ostracization.”

The Court has directed a copy of the judgment to be sent to the Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Commissioner of Police and Director General (Prisons), Tihar Central Jail to explore appropriate programs and intervention so that mainstreaming and rehabilitation of women prisoners is not compromised in any manner.

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