Serious concern was expressed recently by the judiciary at the serious health problems faced by political prisoners like Kobad Ghandy and G.N. Saibaba. First court orders were given for ending numerous harassments caused to Kobad Ghandy (who suffers from several ailments) in Tihar Jail which were leading to steady deterioration in his health. Later on June 10, the Bombay High Court issued notice to the State Government of Maharashtra and sought a report on the deteriorating health of Delhi University Professor G.N. Saibaba who was lodged in Nagpur Central Jail. The court noticed that Saibaba was suffering 90 per cent disability besides other ailments. [Both Kobad Ghandy and Saibaba have since been given a reprieve. Kobad has been transferred back to Tihar Jail-3 where he was originally lodged (but only after he undertook hunger strike in prison). The High Court has given a temporary two-month bail to Saibaba who is now recuperating in Delhi].
This also raises the wider issue of badly needed recognition and respect for the rights of political prisoners. All those who are imprisoned not for ordinary criminal activities but for their work relating to social, economic and political change, particularly the rights of weaker sections, should be classified as political prisoners and must be entitled to certain rights and facilities on this basis.
There is also growing evidence that several innocent persons languish in jail for a long time, partly due to overall neglect of undertrial prisoners and partly due to the poverty of these prisoners. About 67 per cent of India’s prisoners are undertrials. Here particular attention may be drawn to many innocent women prisoners who may be in jail even with their small children, as well as prisoners of very tender age just entering their youth. In all such cases conducive conditions should be created in which social activists (particularly women) and providers of legal aid can meet such prisoners and provide them the necessary legal and other help.