Kewal Pati v. the State of UP

In the Supreme Court of India
Name of the caseKewal Pati v. the State of UP
Citation1995 (3) SCR 207
Year of the case6th April 1995
AppellantKewal Pati
RespondentState of UP
Bench/JudgesR.M.Sahai, S.B.Majumdar
Acts InvolvedThe Constitution of India, 1950; The Criminal Procedure Code, 1973; The Indian Penal Code, 1860
Important SectionsArticle 20, 21 and 22 of the Constitution of India, 1950

The death of a person while in the custody of the Police or Judicial will amount to Custodial Death. Deaths in the custody of police are always controversial. Prisoners also have fundamental rights of right to life although he is imprisoned. Prisoners also have a basic legal right that can’t be taken away from him. The following paper focuses on the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Kewal Pati v. the State of UP and sets out the decision of the Supreme Court and its analysis of various laws and legislations and in the light of decided cases in India.


            The case of Kewal Pati vs the State of UP was decided by the Supreme Court of India in the matters regarding whether the death of a person in custody is entitled to have fundamental rights of right to life or not. The court makes it clear that taking away one’s life is violative of right to life under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution even though he is a prisoner is being discussed in this case.

Background of the Case

            It is now a mandate that the prisoners are also entitled to Right to Life under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution even though they are under custody. The torture, assault, death in custody imposed on the prisoners is a violation of fundamental right under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The police authorities must ensure the safety of their jail prisoners. The state also must protect the rights of the prisoners even when they are lodged in jail and are undergoing incarceration.


  1. The deceased, Ramjit Upadhyaya was sentenced with life imprisonment under Section 302 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) in Central Jail at Varanasi. The punishment for murder under section 302 is given either by death or imprisonment for life along with fine.
  2. Happy, another accused charged of the same offense (murder) as Ramjit, was also sentenced in the same jail as Ramjit.
  3. Ramjit was working as a Nambardar and his work was to maintain discipline among the prisoners in the jail.
  4. Happy could not tolerate the behavior of Ramjit as a Nambardar since he was strict in his behavior and hence attacked and killed him.
  5. A case was registered under section 303 of IPC against Happu for murdering Ramjit. (Section 303 of IPC – If a person under life imprisonment commits murder shall be punished with death).
  6. The deceased Ramjit is survived by his wife and three children. His death has deprived his wife and children of his company and affection.
  7. The wife of the deceased and her children filed a petition against the Government of Uttar Pradesh claiming compensation on legal and humanitarian grounds.


  1. Whether the deceased, Ramjit is entitled to Right to Life even as a prisoner?
  2. Whether his wife is entitled to get compensation?

Related Provisions

The Constitution of India, 1949

Article 21 states that “no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law”.

Article 22 guarantees protection against arrest and detention in certain cases and provides that no person who is arrested shall be detained in custody without being informed of the grounds of such arrest. They shall not be denied the right to consult and defend themselves by a legal practitioner of his choice.

Article 22(2) directs that the person arrested and detained in custody shall be produced before the nearest Magistrate within 24 hours of such arrest, excluding the time necessary for the journey from the place of arrest to the Court of Magistrate.

Article 20(3) provides that a person accused of an offense shall not be compelled to be a witness against himself.

The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973

            Section 49 provides that the police are not permitted to use more restraint than is necessary to prevent the escape of the person.

Section 50 lays down that every police officer arresting any person without a warrant to communicate to him the full particulars of the offense for which he is arrested and the grounds of such arrest. Further, the police officer is required to inform the person arrested that he is entitled to be released on bail and he may arrange for sureties in the event of his arrest for a non-bailable offense.

Section 176 requires the Magistrate to hold an inquiry into the cause of death whenever a person dies in custody of the police.

There are some provisions like section 53, 54, 57, and 167 which are aimed at providing procedural safeguards to a person arrested by the police.

International Instruments

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), 1948:

            Article 5 provides that no person shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966 (ICCPR):

Article 10 lay down that all persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.

Some other international instruments are Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or degrading treatment or Punishment (UNCAT), 1984 and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Right (ICESCR), 1966 also provides safety to a person.

Related Cases

Francis Coralie Mullin vs Administrator, Union Territory of Delhi[1]

            It has been stated in this case that a prisoner does not cease to have his constitutional right except to the extent he has deprived of it by way of law. Even then, taking away one’s right to life is violative of the Fundamental Rights guaranteed under the Indian Constitution.

T.V. Vatheeswaran vs State of Tamil Nadu[2]

            The attention of the Supreme Court was first drawn to the rights of prisoners in 1983 while deciding this case. The court, in this case, held that Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Basic Fundamental Rights guaranteed under Part III of the Indian Constitution are available to prisoners at all times as are given to the freemen. It further stated that the walls of prisons cannot keep fundamental rights out.

D.K. Basu vs State of West Bengal[3]

            This case dealt with the scope of Article 21 of the Constitution of India in case of custodial death. The various forms of torture, cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment would fall with the ambit of this article, irrespective of the stage of the case at the time of occurrence. The Supreme Court issued a list of 11 guidelines in addition to the Constitutional and Statutory Safeguards to be followed in all cases of arrest and detention. This case seems to be a landmark case as the guidelines issued by the Bench aimed to protect the people in custody.


  1. Every person, whether convict or not is provided with the fundamental rights of right to life under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. Hence, Ramjit too had this right.
  2. Due to the negligence of the respondent authorities, the life of the deceased (Ramjit) could not be protected and he was deprived of his Right to Life. Hence it is mandatory to compensate the petitioner for the loss that she and her family suffered.
  3. It was directed to the State of UP to deposit a sum of Rs 100000 within three months from the date of judgment with the Registrar of the court.
  4. From this amount of Rs 100000, a sum of Rs 50,000 shall be deposited in fixed deposit in any nationalized bank and the interest of it shall be paid to the wife and the three children.
  5. The remaining amount shall be paid to the wife by the Registrar after the satisfaction of the petitioner’s identification.

Once all the children become major, the amount in deposit shall be paid to the wife (petitioner) on her option and in case of petitioner’s death, the amount will be divided among the surviving children equally.

Concepts Highlighted

Right to Life stated in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution includes the right to shelter, food, and proper living conditions, and so on. The Supreme Court has recognized the rights of the prisoners so that they do not suffer and better rehabilitative surroundings can be provided to them for their improvement in becoming a better human being during jail term. It is the responsibility of the state and center to provide infrastructure and humane conditions for rehabilitation and the rightful survival of prisoners and also to provide information about rights to prisoners at the right time. There are certain rights granted to prisoners under the purview of Article 21. They are: Right against custodial torture and death in police lockups, Right to cruel and unusual punishment, Right to free legal aid, Right to a fair trial, Right to Speedy Trial, and Rights of Inmates of protective homes.

Charles Sobraj vs the Superintendent, Central Jail, Tihar[4]

            In this case, the importance of the right to life as provided under Article 21 was reiterated and it was also emphasized that even prisoners do not lose this right just because they have been convicted.

            In the present case, the deceased was not only deprived of his right to life but also the petitioner who ceased to have a peaceful survival with her husband is now deprived of his company and affection after his death. Failing to provide compensation put the petitioner’s fundamental rights in danger. The judgment given in this case not only establishes the fact that right to life under Article 21 cannot be taken away even for prisoners but also make it clear that the Government by not giving compensation was also hampering the rights of the petitioner and her children.


            To conclude, human rights are available to each individual, even when he is a civilian or criminal. The prisoner while in the custody of police in India is entitled to the right to life under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The State must protect the citizens; either they are accused of an offense or a normal innocent person. The law can’t be detrimental in its approach and can’t deny basic rights like the right to liberty, dignity to someone who is in the police custody. Moreover, the approach of police in dealing with the prisoners required a strong change.


  1. (last accessed on 25-07-2020).
  2. (last accessed on 25-07-2020).
  3. (last accessed on 25-07-2020).
  4. The Constitution of India, 1950
  5. The Criminal Procedure Code, 1973
  6. The Indian Penal Code, 1860

  • [1] AIR 1981 SC 746
  • [2] AIR 1983, SC 361
  • [3] (1997) 1 SCC 416
  • [4] AIR 1978 SC 746

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