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Solitary Confinement in India

Solitary confinement is a form of imprisonment in which an inmate is isolated from any human contact, with the exception of members of prison staff.  In India, maximum period of solitary confinement is 3 months and it shall not exceed 14 days at a time. Relevant provisions of solitary confinement are sections 73 and 74 of Indian Penal Code, 1860.

Section 73. Solitary confinement
Whenever any person is convicted of an offence for which under this Code the Court has power to sentence him to rigorous imprisonment, the Court may, by its sentence, order that the offender shall be kept in solitary confinement for any portion or portions of the imprisonment to which he is sen­tenced, not exceeding three months in the whole, according to the following scale, that is to say—
a time not exceeding one month if the term of imprisonment shall not exceed six months;
a time not exceeding two months if the term of imprisonment shall exceed six months and shall not exceed one year;
a time not exceeding three months if the term of imprisonment shall exceed one year.
Section 74. Limit of solitary confinement
In executing a sentence of solitary confinement, such confinement shall in no case exceed fourteen days at a time, with intervals between the periods of solitary confinement of not less duration than such periods: and when the imprisonment awarded shall exceed three months, the solitary confinement shall not exceed seven days in any one month of the whole imprisonment awarded, with intervals between the periods of solitary confinement of not less duration than such periods.
Landmark case laws
Unni Krishnan & Ors. v. State of Andhra Pradesh & Ors., 1993 SC
As per Supreme Court “Right against solitary confinement” is one of the rights that falls under Article 21 (Right to Life) of the Constitution.
Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration, 1979 SC
Supreme Court held that solitary or single cell confinement prior to rejection of the mercy petition by the President is unconstitutional.

Constitutional arguments against solitary confinement
1. It violates the basic concept of human dignity
2. It denies basic human rights
3. It causes significant mental and physical pain and suffering
4. It is unnecessary in many cases
Arguments in favour of solitary confinement
1. It is necessary to prevent cases of suicides
2. It is an additional measure of protection of an inmate from other inmates
3. In cases of violations of prison regulations, it can be given to some extent

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