Madurai: A 40-year-old convict serving life imprisonment in the central prison in Tirunelveli district has been granted two-week leave by the Madras High Court so that he and his wife can have a child.
"The convict's wife's legitimate expectation to have a child cannot be declined," said the high court, granting the convict leave for "the purpose of procreation".
A division bench of Justices S Vimala Devi and T Krishna Valli granted the two-week temporary leave to Siddique Ali, an inmate of Palayamkottai Central jail on a Habeas Corpus petition filed by his 32-year-old wife.
The man had been denied parole earlier. Rejecting the state government's concerns, the court said "for extraordinary reasons, prisoners should be given leave".
A policeman in civil clothes is likely to escort the prisoner, who has been in jail for 18 years.
In response to a petition by the convict's wife, the court said, "preliminary investigation has found that there was a possibility of the prisoner having a child." They also said the leave could be extended by two more weeks after medical treatment.
The couple has no child and the wife had requested temporary leave for her husband to help in infertility treatment.
"Providing for release of prisoner for the purpose of procreation of child with available law can be done. It can be interpreted as a request covered under extraordinary reason," they said.
The court observed that it was time the state government forms a committee to consider allowing conjugal visits to prisoners and that many countries had given them such rights.
The judges noted that the Centre had already passed a resolution that conjugal visits are a right and not privilege and prisoners should be entitled to have their wish.
The court observed, “Conjugal visits help prisoners maintain relationship with families, reduce recidivism and motivate and an incentive to good prisoners. Reforming the prisoners is part of the correctional mechanism provided in the criminal justice."
"The right of prisoners for conjugal visits has been recognised in a few countries. If prisons are overcrowded the government should find solution for such problems," they added.
The state government had earlier opposed the convict's leave arguing that his life is in danger and the rules don't allow such requests.