Prison Excesses: SC Seeks Affidavit From Tihar Jail Authorities, Ministry

Prison Excesses: SC Seeks Affidavit From Tihar Jail Authorities, Ministry

The Hon’ble SC seeks an affidavit from Tihar jail authorities disclosing where precisely the CCTV cameras have been installed and whether the control room and the boundary wall of jail are covered by the CCTV cameras or not. The Hon’ble SC has directed the Jail Superintendent, Tihar Jail to file an affidavit. 

The Hon’ble bench headed by Hon’ble Justice U. U. Lalit was dealing with an incident wherein the death of three (3) convicts in a row were involved. The Hon’ble bench thereafter searched the concerned cell where convicts were locked. Subsequently, after observing the incident and examination report so submitted the Hon’ble court discovered and perceived that the three prisoners including the petitioner were found to be in an intoxicated condition and thereafter upon being confronted, the authorities had to use force to contain them. 

Soon after the incident took place the father of one of the prisoners acknowledged by the information he received that his son (one of the prisoners and also the petitioner in the present case) was badly beaten inside the prison where he is presently lodged. Subsequently, after receiving the information, the meeting was arranged at the instance of the father, and the petitioner had to be brought in, supported by two persons. 

In the due course, the Hon’ble SC bench passed the order and its order had asked Addl. District Judge, Tis Hazari Courts, Delhi to officially visit the concerned cell/enclosure in Tihar Jail, Delhi, and to make an appropriate report. The Hon’ble SC in its order passed also mentioned that the Judge while visiting the cell may interview the convicts and the petitioner and such other persons as he deems appropriate. The Hon’ble SC also granted the Addl. District Judge liberty to watch CCTV footage of the area in question, if available.

Noting that no CCTV footage is stated to be available, the Hon’ble bench restated that in keeping with the directions issued by various Hon’ble courts from time to time and predominantly in the light of the directions issued in the latest judgment of the Apex Court in Paramvir Singh Saini versus Baljit Singh (2020), wherein it was held by the Hon’ble SC that the Jail Authorities are obliged to install CCTV cameras at various places in the jail.

Later on, the bench recorded, that according to the Superintendent of Jail, Tihar Jail, who was connected through video conferencing, a CCTV camera has been installed at the medical dispensary. However, according to him, the life of CCTV footage is only four days and as of now, no footage is available.

Following this, the Hon’ble bench in order to have all the relevant facts on record directed the Jail Superintendent to file an affidavit by 05.04.2021 releasing all the steps undertaken by him in connection with the incident that occurred. The Hon’ble court also directed the Superintendent of Jail that the affidavit shall also disclose under what circumstances, materials, such as, tobacco pouches or any other contraband/such things find their way inside the jail premises and what kind of precautionary and other measures are being taken by the jail authorities. 

Additionally, the Hon’ble bench ordered that the affidavit shall also reveal the make of CCTV camera which have been installed which according to the Superintendent of jail does not have lived more than four days for CCTV footage; so also about the timelines followed to and required for installing CCTV cameras and the financial allocation made for such installations. 

Moreover, concerning the budgetary allocation and the kind of cameras installed in the jail premises, an affidavit is also to be filed by the concerned official from the Home Ministry of the respondent-State with an explanation as to why the life of CCTV footages is limited only to four days.

Likewise, ADJ on his visit to Tihar jail detected that the petitioner-accused was unable to walk properly. The Jail Superintendent was, therefore, asked to get the accused medically examined and to furnish a Certificate. Subsequently, the Hon’ble bench also noted that no such documents about the medical examination of the petitioner-accused are placed on record. 

Accompanying, the medical report attested by the Medical Officer In-charge shows that the patient was planned for an x-ray, but the relevant x-ray on that behalf was also not placed on record. Besides this, the Hon’ble bench also noted that the punishment Ticket issued to the petitioner-accused and the others show that they were taken to jail OPD for medical treatment. However, the relevant certificates or reports of the concerned date are not placed on record. The hand-written portion below the Punishment ticket shows that punishment of withdrawing mulakat along with phone and canteen facility was imposed upon the concerned prisoners. Such imposition of punishment was not in keeping with the relevant provisions, the bench further said. 

Needful to note that the Hon’ble SC had earlier this month pulled up the Union Government for seeking more time regarding the installation of CCTV cameras in the offices of Central probe agencies such as CBI, NIA, NCB, DRI, SFIO, etc. The Hon’ble bench headed by Justice RF Nariman had also issued directions to install CCTV cameras in all police stations across the country to check instances of custodial torture. 

The present matter was sent to the Hon’ble SC on March 2 for reporting compliance. Necessary to note that before that, the Central Government had circulated a letter seeking an adjournment. Subsequently, Hon’ble Justice Nariman expressing displeasure at the letter seeking adjournment, told the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, “We are getting a different impression that you are dragging your feet. What kind of letter you have circulated?”. The Solicitor General replied that adjournment was sought to have regard to the ‘ramifications’ of the order. “What ramifications? We are not concerned about the ramifications”, Hon’ble Justice Nariman replied. “This concerns the rights of the citizens. This concerns the rights of people under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. We are not accepting the excuses given in the letter”, the Hon’ble judge added.