Supreme Court seeks Centre's response on plea to fix prisoners wages
Bandi Adhikar Andolan Bihar versus Union of India & Ors. Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 210 of 2014 The petitioner organization is a network of individuals and social work groups working in the state of Bihar and focusing on the plight of prisoners in the jails in Bihar. Some of the lawyers who are part of this group provide legal aid to poor prisoners free of cost in the prisons. While studying the issue of minimum wages paid to the convict prisoners and under trials, the petitioner organization decided to do a study of the wages paid to prisoners throughout the country. The picture that emerged was one of injustice being done to the prison population almost in every state and union territory. The Supreme Court on 17 Jan 2015 issued notice to Centre and state governments on a PIL seeking its direction to fix wage for prison workers on par with minimum wages and to provide eight hours work to all prisoners and under-trials who volunteer for such work. Agreeing to hear the PIL filed by a Bihar-based NGO Bandi Adhikar Andolan, a bench headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu sought response from the governments. The petitioner alleged that denying reasonable wages to a prisoner for his work amounts to violation of their rights. The Petitioner state that the honorable Court had directed in 1998 to fix the wages of the prisoners according to the Minimum Wages Act, 1948. Inspite of the directions of this Court, the prisoners' wages continue to be much below than the average minimum wage thus violating the constitutional rights of a prisoner. It further state that the prisoner's rights are further exploited with arbitrary deductions in the prisoners' wages that leaves them with a meager amount that they receive in hand which is not reasonable enough to support the family of the prisoner. The NGO referred to the case of Bihar where the prison wage is Rs 87 per day for semi-skilled workers while the minimum wage for semi-skilled workers in the state is at Rs 188 per day. The prison wage for skilled workers is Rs 121 per day. From this amount Rs 72 is deducted which amounts to approximately 60%. The prisoner gets in hand only Rs 59 per day. This deduction is not in conformity with the Supreme Court verdict.