The Delhi High Court has held that inmates who has suffered disability due to an injury suffered while working in the prison, has the fundamental right to get justice and compensation as per law.

The bench of Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma was dealing with a plea raising the issue regarding payment of compensation, to a convict inmate of Tihar Jail who suffered injuries i.e. amputation of three fingers of the right hand while working in the factory of Tihar Jail.

Advocate Vishesh Wadhwa appeared for the petitioner whereas Yasir Rauf Ansari, ASC, appeared for State.

The Court noted that there is no mention in either Delhi Prisons Act, 2000 or Delhi Prison Rules, 2018 as to what happens to the lost time wages of the convict who was not able to work after his accident as in the present case where the petitioner lost three fingers of his right hand.

The Court noted that the case illustrates a need to clarify and lay down framework for determining the standard of reviewing policy for quantifying and assessing the compensation paid to a prisoner for work-related injuries sustained in the jail.

Thus the Court laid down specific guidelines applicable in case of amputation, or any other life-threatening injury, arising out of work-related injury, sustained by the convict:-

• In Case of a convict suffering work related amputation or life threatening injury, the Superintendent Jail will be duty bound to immediately inform the concerned Jail Inspecting Judge within 24 hours from the incident.

• A Three-Member Committee will be constituted, who will assess and quantify the compensation to be paid to the victim.

• For assessing the injury/disability, the contributory negligence, if any, of the victim in question will be kept in mind.

The Court held that this arrangement will remain in place until necessary guidelines in this regard are formulated.

The Court further noted that the fundamental rights should not remain on paper and it is the duty of courts to ensure that they become living law and in practicality assist, help and guide the citizens.

The Court observed that it has to hear the voiceless and feel and treat the pain and suffering suffered by the convict not as pain of a prison inmate but as that of a human being.

The Court observed that it is time that the authorities of the prisons which are correctional homes act as guardians of the prisoners for their health and safety and not merely consider themselves as guards of the inmates.

In this case, the petitioner, who is serving life sentence in Tihar Jail, suffered partial amputation of three fingers of right hand while working on a Rag Chopper Machine in the paper unit of the jail factory of Central Jail, Tihar.

Thereafter, petitioner was issued a disability certificate which reflected that he had suffered permanent disability. The petitioner stated that he required functional prosthesis for regular working of the amputated fingers of his right hand.

The petitioner had approached the Jail Superintendent seeking update regarding his application for grant of compensation and for providing functional prosthesis at the State‘s expenses. To his utter shock, petitioner found that the application had been returned to him without stating any reasons.

The petitioner was granted Rs.50,000/- as compensation however, the counsel for petitioner vehemently argued that the compensation of Rs. 50,000/- was not justified considering the injuries suffered by the petitioner.

The High Court noted that since the petitioner has already been provided interim compensation by the Jail authorities, the case of the petitioner qua enhanced compensation and for providing functional prosthesis will be decided in light of the above guidelines laid down by the Court.

Cause Title- Ved Yadav v. State of Delhi & Ors. (Neutral Citation Number: 2023/DHC/001157)

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