• Legis Scriptor

Right against Solitary Confinement

Authored by Shaik Uzma

Keywords: solitary confinement, mental illness, violation


During a time of solitary confinement, imprisoned individuals live in total isolation that prevents them from any kind of human interaction except for prison personnel. Sections 73 and 74 of the I.P.C offer legal approval to solitary confinement and set such limitations because of its essence of being so harsh that psychologically as well as physically affects the inmate. It continues to be given to those inmates over which the court has the authority to convict them with rigour. Over time, the court passes decisions in favour of its removal and considers that holding the prisoner in solitary confinement until the exhaustion of his civil, legal and moral rights violates the statute.


About 200 years ago, there was a harsh and boorish mentality about detention centres, inmates and retribution. Individual interest of the convicted criminal is a concept embraced after a long struggle with the Judiciary. The Indian socio-legal system relies on the individual's peacefulness, love for one another and human dignity. If a person commits any crime, it does not mean that he ceases to be a human being by committing a crime, and that certain elements of life that constitute human dignity can be denied. Indeed even the prisoners have human rights in light of the fact jail torment is not the last drug in the Justice Pharmacopoeia however a confession of failure to do justice to living man. To a detained person, however, all constitutional rights are an enforceable fact, constrained by the fact of detention.

Origin of Solitary Confinement

The use of Solitary Confinement was pioneered in the U.S. in the late 18th century. It was believed to protect the inmates from crowded prison indignities where public humiliation was the norm. But later it became very clear that it mostly harms their mental health leading to suicide. And after the beginning of the 19th century; practise was then mostly abandoned because they thought it was ineffective and partly because it was more expensive. But the US prison system again began to take place in the 1980's and 90's. After that the federal and state prison system began constructing "Supermax" gaol. In this, a facility unit is constructed to house hundreds of individuals in solitary confinement. In 1983 the first Supermax prison to open was called Pelican Bay State Prison in California.

Meaning of Solitary Confinement

Solitary confinement may be described as a prisoner's confinement which isolates him from other prisoners' sight and communication. It is a type of punishment in which an inmate is separated from any sort of human activity. In the case of Kishore Singh Ravinder Dev v.state of Rajasthan , the Supreme Court described solitary confinement as conditions in which prisoners are completely isolated from other co-prisoners and isolated from the outside world. According to the United Nations Standard Rules for the Handling of Prisoners, solitary confinement is a prisoner's imprisonment without any human contact for twenty-two hours or more per day.

Relevant Sections

● Section 73 of the I.P.C specifies that solitary confinement is only permissible when such a crime under the Code has been committed by the individual that is punishable by stringent goal.

● Section 74 of I.P.C. addresses limitations of solitary confinement, which specifies that an inmate should not be held for more than 14 days at a time in any situation. This section authorises the judiciary not to offer solitary confinement for more than 3 months and not to exceed seven days in a month in a situation that extends three months than in such a case.

● Section 29 of the Prison Acts, 1894 specifies No cell shall be used for solitary confinement unless it is fitted with the means to allow the prisoner to interact with the prison officer at any time and any prisoner so confined in a cell for more than twenty-four hours, whether as a punishment or otherwise, shall be inspected by the Medical Officer at least once a day.

Reasons for putting people in solitary confinement:

There can be different reasons for keeping the inmates in solitary confinement in isolation. Some of those are:-

❏ Serious crimes, such as battling with another prisoner, including minor offences (such as talking to the guard or being caught in a pack of cigarettes.

❏ Inmates are sent to solitary confinement for failing to follow any laws at all.

❏ Solitary Confinement is used as a gang management tool to separate all people suspected of complaining about gang members.

❏ Solitary confinement also serves as remuneration for political activism.

Effects of Solitary Confinement:

There are many inmates who are released straight into the streets after years of isolation. Studies showed they are suffering from many physiological effects, such as

● Insomnia and night sickness

● Noise- and touch-sensitivity

● Zeit and perception defects

● Visual and auditory hallucinations

● Suicide risk

● Post-traumatic stroke

● Nervous and frustrated emotions

● Hazardous Vision

Many researchers like Andersen (2000) say that these physiological effects can only be seen in those inmates that have been in solitary confinement as opposed to regular inmates.

Benefits of Solitary Confinement

It helps to ensure the safety of the prison as it prevents imprisoned people from being threats to others.

❏ Prison guards are effective ways of managing aggressive behaviour. It allows them inside prison to maintain a sense of order.

❏ It helps inmates reshape their persona. As if they're in solitary confinement they can think about their behaviours and they can also think about the appropriate steps to rectify them.

Negative impact of solitary confinement

❏ It deteriorates the mental health of inmates. Individuals begin suffering from different psychiatric illnesses in isolation.

❏ It also affects their physical stability. Since they are not permitted to go out except for a stroll, they tend to suffer from a wide variety of illnesses that may be due to vitamin D deficiency.

❏ It is not always very successful as incarcerated people most of the time start dwelling on isolation itself or the brace of retribution.

❏ It violates fundamental human rights, too. As in Solitary Confinement, people suffer from numerous mental and physical conditions contributing to human rights abuses.

Landmark judgements

❖ In Unni Krishnan & Ors. V. State of Andhra Pradesh & Ors[1],According to the Supreme Court's order, the right to confinement alone is one of the rights under Article 21 of the Constitution (Right to Life). In this case, in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution , the Supreme Court proclaims that the right to solitary confinement comes under the right to life.

❖ In Kishore Singh Ravinder Dev v State of Rajasthan[2], the Supreme Court held that by holding prisoners in separate solitary rooms for long periods ranging from 8 to 11 months, placing crossbar shackles in prison for several days on the poor grounds of loitering, acting insolently and uncivilized, is the articulate neglect of the precedent laid down in the case of Sunil Batra. But the convict should only be held in solitary confinement in the rarest of rare cases otherwise it would be a breach of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

❖ In the Union of India v. Dharam Pal,[3] The Supreme Court noted that the convict who was a death sentenced had been incarcerated for more than 25 years, 18 years of which had been in solitary confinement at the duration of the President's decision on his appeal for mercy, and that he was held in solitary confinement in different goals, and as such is unconstitutional, and summarises the separate and additional punishment not allowed.


From the above-mentioned facts it can be inferred that Solitary Confinement has a positive as well as negative impact on inmates. It can be said that in the future it sometimes leads the person to become a better person, whereas sometimes it happens just the opposite and people suffer great mental disorders. Although, it is also very clear that there is definite evidence of the longer-term negative effects of inmates being held in solitary confinement. Thus, the penitentiary system must take special care to look after the inmates' welfare regardless of their pre-existing medical condition.


Foot Notes:

[1] 1993 AIR 2178, 1993 SCR (1) 594 [2] 1981 AIR 625, 1981 SCR (1) 995 [3] Criminal Appeal No. 000804-000804 / 2019.