Luxury prison cell gazette is yet to be implemented

Dinitha Rathnayake

In the wake of a controversy that has arisen with regard to the gazette notification 2288/15 issued on 12 July 2022 providing facilities for remand prisoners to purchase separate cell-based accommodation, Prisons Department sources, speaking to The Morning, said that the matter is still at the decision-making level, and has not been implemented so far.

“A special discussion was also held by the relevant authorities yesterday (27) about the said gazette notification,” the sources added.

The gazette notification (2288/15) issued on 12 July 2022, states that “On the payment of a fee fixed by the Prison Superintendent, any civil prisoner may be permitted by the Superintendent to be placed in exclusive occupation of a room or a cell better equipped than an ordinary cell or ward, if such a room or cell is available and the condition of such prisoner warrants the provision of such accommodation”.

As per prison rules, while there are no cells in prisons with special facilities, prisoners are permitted to request furniture, sources said.

This gazette appears to violate Articles 12(1) and 12(2) of the Constitution, which grants prisoners equality and equal entitlements provided by the State.

It is further observed that the gazette has several other provisions that curtail facilities so far offered to remand prisoners. It permits only one day per week for visitation purposes, whereas, earlier, visitation was permitted over six days of the week. Additionally, visitors are not allowed to bring food, paper, and clothing.

Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) Commissioner Dr. Nimal Karunasiri told The Morning that he cannot comment on the gazette without first reading it, and that he would therefore only be able to comment in a week’s time.

Meanwhile, speaking to The Morning, Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) Propaganda Secretary Pubudu Jayagoda said that this gazette was first implemented on 19 March 1920 and was changed after 102 years.

“But the people who have money are allowed to have a separate room if they pay for it. In the remand prison, they are only suspects or some are remanded for their own safety. Is it ethical to offer paid rooms? There have been no developments in prisoners’ rights so far and this is what the Government has come up with?”

Meanwhile, speaking to The Morning, sources in the Ministry of Justice, Prison Affairs, and Constitutional Reforms said that this gazette was formulated during former subject Minister, President’s Counsel (PC) M.U.M. Ali Sabry’s time at the office and that the present subject Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe PC is yet to declare his position on the matter.

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