“Tihar Inmates Were Thrashed For No Reason”

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New Delhi— Eighteen inmates lodged in the high-risk cells of Tihar Jail were beaten up last week when they objected to the seizure of their pillow covers, a preliminary investigation directed by Delhi high court has established.

The probe committee, according to a TOI report, described the incident of November 21 as a “gross violation of fundamental human and other legal rights of prisoners who have been subjected to severe physical torture without any justifiable reason”.

Mostly accused and convicts in “terror-related” offences, the prisoners suffered serious injuries. Three suffered fractures inflicted by the security men, among them personnel of the Tamil Nadu Special Police and Quick Reaction Team.

The 111-page report added that prisoners in Wards C and F were since living in a “state of fear” and apprehended they could “be killed on some or the other pretext”.

A bench of acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar termed these details reported by the team of Reetesh Singh, joint registrar rules, Lorren Bamniyal, registrar, and advocate Harsh Prabhakar as “very disturbing”.

It ordered a thorough enquiry headed by a district judge to fix accountability. The Tamil Nadu Special Police is responsible for the security and safety of inmates lodged in the high-risk ward in Jail Number 1.

“It is completely unjustifiable. If this is the situation in Delhi, what about other places? It is our duty to ensure their (inmates) life is safe and secure even though they are accused of serious offences,” the bench noted. It ordered the production of the 18 prisoners for medical tests by a board to be set up by the medical superintendent at the All India Institutes of Medical Sciences. The high court also asked the authorities and committee to preserve the CCTV footage of the incident of November 21.

The HC-appointed team wrote its report after reviewing CCTV footage of the wards and outer courtyard and interviewing each of the 18 injured inmates, who are believed to have revealed in detail the nature of assault and injuries they suffered.

As for the origin of the trouble, the report held that the inmates objected to policemen seizing their pillow covers during a thorough search of each cell. The objections of the prisoners led to the cops raising an alarm, after which 30 TN Special Police team entered the wards and thrashed the prisoners. Activated by the alarm, a separate squad of the Quick Response Team also arrived and proceeded to give the prisoners a second round of beating.

“The present incident was not one of rioting. Handling of the incident by TSP and by the assistant superintendent cannot be justified in any manner. Prisoners of Ward F had returned to their cells immediately after the alarm was sounded and there was no reason for the TSP or QRT to use force,” the report concluded.

The report also said that despite standing guidelines on how to deal with such a situation “an incident has been perpetrated where prisoners have been beaten with such severity that it has resulted in them harbouring a constant fear of being killed by the prison authorities.”

The court had directed a preliminary probe on November 22 following a PIL filed by advocate Chinmay Kanojia, who alleged that his client, Shahid Husuf, currently being investigated by the National Investigation Agency and undergoing trial, was beaten up without provocation. Another plea by lawyer Jawahar Raja alleged that a particular community, including Husuf, were targeted by the jail staff and suffered serious injuries.

Moved by the plight of the inmates in various jails and the poor living conditions there, the bench asked Delhi government and the Tihar Jail authorities to show where the law said that prisoners “should sleep on the floor”.

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