Nepal | January 16, 2021

Lawmakers point out flaws in Prison Bill-2020

Say it fails to incorporate provision on counselling, deploying female cops inside prisons

Himalayan News Service
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As many as 24 amendment proposals have been registered by lawmakers at the House of Representatives with regard to various provisions of the Prison Bill-2020.

After clause-wise discussion on the bill, which is under consideration in the lower house, members of the State Affairs and Good Governance Committee had filed the amendment proposals.

According to the parliamentary panel, member Yashoda Gurung Subedi has called on the Ministry of Home Affairs to revise some provisions proposed in the bill to transform prisons into correctional homes.

“This bill has failed to envision provision of psycho-social counselling facilities inside prison. It should be a part of jurisdiction of the prison management,” she said. Gurung also stressed the need to incorporate provisions relating to construction of large prison infrastructures into the bill.

Another house panel member Durga Subedi said the bill was not drafted to address new challenges facing prisoners and inmates.

“There should be a provision requiring the government to deploy female cops in the inner security ring of women prison, besides construction of dedicated buildings to keep female prisoners and inmates,” she suggested.

Amaresh Kumar Singh proposed that the definition of ‘prison’ stated in the bill be revised. The bill has defined prison as a house or room, where a prisoner or inmate is kept. Singh said, “As per this definition if a person is under house arrest, his or her house will be a prison. Therefore, the bill should define and explain prison clearly to avoid confusion,” he said.

Home secretary Maheshwor Neupane said the MoHA was ready to reach a consensus on the bill by making necessary revisions.

According to Section 23 of the bill, the prison administration shall allow the couple to meet each other for the purpose of protecting their right to reproduction. The bill has also proposed a provision of granting permission of marriage to the jailbirds.

“If male and female inmates, who are serving sentences in the same prison and have attained the age of majority, wish to tie the knot, they shall have to submit an application to the prison administration for marriage registration.

Even a male or a female, who is not doing time in jail, may marry an inmate, by fulfilling the same procedure,” reads Section 28. If the prison administration receives an application, it shall write to the concerned agency for marriage registration.

It will require the prison administration to take the inmates along with security personnel to the district administration office for marriage registration on the day as prescribed by the DAO.

Lawmakers have also welcomed special provisions of accommodation, food and health facilities for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers doing time in jail. As per Section 37, if a woman inmate having attained second trimester of her pregnancy wishes to go to her house or somewhere else inside the country for medical care and other health services, the prison administration shall grant permission against bank guarantee as prescribed, on the condition that she will return to the prison after completion of 60 days of the childbirth.

Article 38 (2) of the constitution states that every woman shall have the right to safe motherhood and reproductive health. The bill will replace the existing Prison Act-1963, after passage by the parliament.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on July 30, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.

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