Convicts do not have a fundamental right to conjugal contact as a matter of course, according to a three-judge panel of the Madras High Court, albeit such a right is available for special purposes such as reproductive treatment, in Meharaj v. The State. Acting Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari, Justices Pushpa Sathyanarayana and PD Audikesavalu ruled that denying a convict’s conjugal connection for a specific reason might be construed as a denial of the fundamental right provided by Article 21 of the Constitution.
The specific cause could be infertility treatment or something similar, but it should not be interpreted as a fundamental right to have a conjugal connection in general. The Court reasoned that this would distinguish between those who follow the law and those who violate it in terms of the rights provided by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
As a result, it was determined that undergoing infertility treatment in order to have a child qualified as “exceptional reasons” for granting leave.
The Bench was asked to evaluate two questions: – Firstly,if I Is it true that denying conjugal rights to a convict prisoner is tantamount to denying such rights to his or her spouse, thereby violating Article 21 of the Indian Constitution? And secondly, can the State be ordered to favourably examine a convict prisoner’s request for emergency or ordinary leave in order to have a conjugal relationship with his or her spouse, notwithstanding the fact that the Tamil Nadu Suspension of Sentence Rules, 1982 do not allow for it?
The offender was allowed two weeks of temporary liberty after his plea was accepted. When the petitioner returned to the Court to request a six-week extension, the matter was referred to a larger Bench.
The Court discussed a ruling of the Punjab & Haryana High Court in Jasvir Singh v. State of Punjab, in which it was found that a prisoner’s conjugal rights fell under the basic right provided under Article 21.
In Rajeeta Patel v. State of Bihar, the Patna High Court held a similar viewpoint.
The Bench went on to say that the denial of a conjugal relationship intended for a specified purpose could be construed as a violation of Article 21. Nonetheless, the conduct cannot be interpreted as a right to be in a marital relationship.
If relief for having a conjugal relationship is acknowledged as a right under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, the accused or his/her spouse can make a similar petition for conjugal relationship time and time again, the Court stated.
The Bench expressed worry that if the right is recognised as a fundamental right, offenders will file numerous applications without constraint.
The Tamil Nadu Suspension of Sentence Rules were analysed to identify the second issue. The facts of the case, according to the Bench, established an extraordinary justification for granting leave. The Rule, on the other hand, could not be applied in all cases or repeatedly. According to the Bench, a felon cannot have all of the same privileges as a citizen; otherwise, there would be no distinction between such a law-abiding citizen and a law-breaking prisoner.
The registry was then instructed to present the materials to the roster Bench for disposition of the case. The Court also expressed gratitude to all counsel and the Amicus Curiae for their help.