Officials nap as Tihar Jail becomes India’s global embarrassment

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Asia’s largest prison, Tihar Jail has become a cause of global embarrassment for India, with a slew of lapses and poor conditions in the prison being cited by fugitives like Mallya, Nirav Modi to get away from India’s extradition request. However the jail administration seems to be sleeping even as Tihar turns into a notorious prison situated in the national capital.

Team NewsMobile investigated what ails Tihar and why the government needs to take urgent steps to clean up the mess. Despite repeated attempts DG Tihar Jail Ajay Kashyap wasn’t available for comments.

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There are innumerable things happening inside the premises which led to the horrific crimes on jail inmates and this is the sole reason why the lawbreakers don’t want to stay in Tihar jail. An example of this could be the case of Sanjeev Chawla, a key accused in the cricket match-fixing scandal, whose extradition was rejected by the Westminster Magistrate’s Court, London and the reason to this was- the conditions in which he would be kept inside Tihar Jail would violate his ‘human rights’.

Another case would be of the liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya, whose jail video was demanded by the Westminster Magistrate Court, London because the pictures provided by the Arthur Road jail, Mumbai was not enough for the UK judge, they said that there is “no natural light in the cell and no fresh air”.

Besides Mallya, there are five Indian extradition requests pending in UK courts involving fugitives Rajesh Kapoor, Tiger Hanif, Atul Singh, Raj Kumar Patel and Shaik Sadiq, based on a government statement made in the Rajya Sabha last year.

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The Indian jails are a complete nightmare for any prisoner and there are some of the points leading to this condition of Tihar jail:

Sample these incidents,
• Violence by the jail inmates: In Tihar’s Rohini campus on 22 May, 2018 some inmates thrashed and strangled a fellow prisoner, Pawan Kumar to death. The quarrel started after Kumar refused to serve soft drink to the leader of a group of convicts. Interestingly this came after the Delhi High Court directed the Central Bureau of Investigation to probe the assault on the prisoners of Tihar.

• Violence by the prison staff: On 21 November, 2017 there was a case registered against some security personnels for violence against the jail inmates in the Tihar jail. A panel was appointed by the court for investigation of the case and after examining 49 witnesses they called for the further investigation in which it was said that CCTV footage was ‘over-written’.

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The High Court appointed panel probing the case, asked the jail authorities about the unfunctional CCTV, the Superintendent in the Tihar Jail said that the cameras’ recording feature had not been operational for the last six months. However, a constable later told the committee that the DVR had failed to record the data from November 19-22 November.

The committee after looking the medical reports of the victims, the CCTV footage of the verandah and the testimony of the inmates, stated that it is so clear that the inmates of block C and F of the Central Jail no. 1 were subjected to brutal beatings on the night of 21.11.2017.

Another incident happened on 15 June, 2018 where a 21-year-old under trial prisoner was found dead under mysterious circumstances at Tihar Jail. The victim’s lawyer claimed that he was killed by a jail employee. The lawyer also claimed the the jail authorities did not even inform his family about the death and they came to know about it through some acquaintance.

In yet another case, On 1 November, 2017, the Delhi High Court directed the Tihar Jail authorities to conduct a fair probe into a case where 47 jail inmates alleged that they were mercilessly beaten up by the prison staff inside the jail.

• Overcrowding: The capacity of the jail inmates are 10,026 and the population is 15,369. According to the data given on Delhi government site the population of the prisoners is almost doubling every ten years. The jail has almost 5,343 people more than it can accommodate and that led to overcrowding. The graph above shows the number of males and females in the jail.

• Extortion rackets: The exortion rackets are becoming endemic in the Tihar Jail. According to the police officials, two convicts in the prison, named Asif and Danish, were recently uncovered, making extortion demands from other jail inmates inside the jail premises.

• CCTVs not working: The CCTVs not working in the jail has made the life miserable inside the Tihar Jail as the cases of assault on the jail inmates are lodged but the jail official says that the CCTV footage is not available or the CCTVs are not working is merely an excuse! As happened in the case on September 14 where the inmates were subjected to brutal assault and an FIR was lodged in the Hari Nagar Police Station alleging that there was a big brawl between two groups of prisoners. The affidavit filed before the court, said that the CCTV cameras were not working since September 13 and the assault took place the next morning.

• Escape from the jail: In 2015, two inmates scaled an inner wall of the jail and then travelled through the tunnel under the outer wall, crawled through the drain to escape the prison.

Another case happened where a convict, Sandeep Dhillu was freed by friends when he was being taken to a hospital. The friends of Dhillu were also running an extortion racket inside the jail, opened fire at the security personnels to escape.

• Supplying ‘imported’ luxuries inside the jail: Living life like a king even in a jail isn’t possible, but the Chandra brothers wanted to make this impossible, possible. Sanjay and Ajay Chandra, managing directors of a real estate firm, Unitech were in the prison since April.

Six cellphones, bottles of perfume, imported chocolates, 73 packets of ready-to-eat food and biscuits were recovered from an SUV at the jail number 1 parking and after asking the identity of the driver it was revealed that the man was Vikrant Mahant, who was an employee of the Chandra brothers.

The human rights are for everyone so why the prisoners should be exempted from them? The vision of Tihar Jail is to provide reformation or rehabilitation of prisoners, but is the reformation seriously happening inside the jail? The brutality and assaults tell us some other story.

The authorities should be vigilant and they should ensure that the prisoners are treated equally respectfully as per the constitution. The whole point of imprisonment is that the criminal minds get a lesson and when they move out of the jail they are a changed man and look the society in an equally beautiful way, in the way we look.
But in such scenarios the objective of it looks far from being a reality.

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