With its insistence on hefty monetary security deposit, overbearing surveillance during interviews and stringent censorship of written and filmed material that serve to ‘keep out’ rather than ‘allow’ visits, the advisory violates constitutional rights of prisoners, freedoms of an independent press and participation rights of public at large, said CHRI in a statement.The prisoners’ right to communication with the outside world has been read as right to life under Article 21 by several Supreme Court judgments. The Supreme Court in Sunil Batra v DelhiAdministration on 1980 SCR maintained, “We see no reason why the right to be visited under reasonable restrictions, should not claim constitutional status. We hold, subject to discipline, that liberal visits by family members, close friends and legitimate callers, are part of the prisoners’ kit of rights and shall be respected.”
Moreover, under Article 19(1)(a), the Constitution guarantees to all citizens the right to freedom of speech and expression. The circumstances in which these rights may be restricted are categorically laid down under Article 19(2) which empowers the state to make ‘reasonable’ restrictions on this right only in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.
The provenance of this advisory does not justify the kind of ruling expressed in it and cannot be justified under Article 19(2) of the Constitution, said CHRI.
If the advisory is a knee jerk reaction to the film made by a British filmmaker on the jail interview with Nirbhaya’s accused, it should be understood that neither the content of the film nor the permission of jail authorities granting it warrants these additional restrictions on documentary filmmakers and researchers, added CHRI.