Chandigarh, Nov. 29: In a move that can have far-reaching consequences, the Punjab State Human Rights Commission has taken cognizance of a petition by a convict’s wife seeking cohabitation with her husband.
Kalpana Daniel, a 31-year-old nurse, claimed that her “right to motherhood” as a married woman was part of her fundamental right to life and personal liberty as enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution and could not be denied.
A top official of the commission revealed that the petition lays stress on the plea that she cannot be deprived of her right to cohabit with her husband simply because he was in jail.
“Kalpana has raised a very pertinent question. The Punjab Jail Manual only allows prisoners to go on parole during harvest or sowing times. If that is allowed, why refuse permission to wives to cohabit with their husbands in jail whenever they want' It will be very difficult for the commission to pass judgement on the petition. It is only the Supreme Court which can decide on the matter,” the official said.
The rights panel has called for a debate on the matter.
Acting chairman N.K. Arora has directed the additional director general of police (prisons) to look into the petition and suggest remedies.
“But that would mean changing the jail manual and only the government can do it. But even then the question of cohabiting with one’s husband or wife serving a sentence in jail will not be answered fully. It is a very tricky petition which needs to be dealt carefully,” the official said.
In its directive to the police official, the commission said that since the adjudication of Kalpana’s husband’s conviction is pending before Punjab and Haryana High Court, it cannot pass a ruling on the matter.
“But she has raised what she believes is a valid and legitimate question which directly relates to the basic human right to motherhood which according to her is being denied. There is no provision in the jail manual to allow her to cohabit with her husband in prison at the moment,” the official said.
Kalpana has, however, not mentioned the term of her husband’s sentence. Nor does her New Preet Nagar address in Ludhiana seem correct as it belongs to one Rishi Bhardwaj.