The Rajasthan High Court has asked the state government to ensure that prisoners are not forced to do "menial jobs" like cleaning toilets on the basis of caste. It further said undertrials should not be assigned such jobs. The court gave the directions after taking a suo moto notice of a research paper by a voluntary organisation, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI).
Expressing displeasure over the practice, a division bench of Justices Sandeep Mehta and Devendra Kachhawaha said it is shocking that the prison manual, which was a "gift" of the British Rule, is still being followed. Fixing the next hearing for February 4, the court has asked the state government to explain the steps needed to be taken for the overhauling of the prison manual.
The court also wished that the state government consider the installation of automated cleaning facilities in all prisons. Earlier, the report by the voluntary organisation had highlighted that every person who enters a prison is asked about his caste and once identified, "menial jobs" like cleaning toilets and sweeping are assigned to those from lowest echelons of society, irrespective of the nature of the offence committed.
The arrangement was clear those at the bottom of the caste pyramid did the cleaning work; those high above handled the kitchen or the legal documentation department. And the rich and influential did nothing; they only threw their weight around. These arrangements had nothing to do with crime that one was arrested for or his conduct in prison. Sab kuch jaati ke aadhar par tha (it is all based on caste), the report said.