November 26, 2018

Do the rich have special rights in jails, asks SC


Noting reports that Unitech Ltd’s Managing Director Sanjay Chandra and Ajay Chandra—lodged in Tihar Jail for allegedly cheating homebuyers—were provided with 5-star facilities inside the Jail in violation of the law, a Supreme Court bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta November 22 said, “Is there a parallel system running in jails where the rich got everything while poor inmates lived in pathetic conditions? Do they [the rich] have special rights in jails?”

The reports had highlighted that LED TV, coconut water, crates of Aquafina mineral water, badminton rackets, and household items, including sofa, mattresses, mustard oil, foot-mats, and stools, were among the prohibited things found in the prison cell where Chandra brothers were lodged. The reports added that the brothers also enjoyed a separate "office" room having a computer with internet, as well as a printer.

Notably, Additional Sessions Judge Ramesh Kumar-II, who had performed an inspection on September 4 after receiving complaints from other inmates that Chandra brothers and others jailed for white-collar crimes were enjoying "luxurious lifestyle" with a "separate VIP ward", had informed the Delhi High Court regarding this issue.

On November 22, Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi, representing the Center in the Supreme Court, stated that action must be taken against jail officials concerned for providing such facilities to them.

On the other hand, observing that the Centre and state government are not doing enough to provide basic facilities to jail inmates who are forced to live in pathetic conditions, the court stated that government officials should be asked to visit prisons to get first-hand experience about the living conditions, which would sensitize them to the problem.

The court told Lekhi, “You people do not realize their problems because you do not go to jail. Go there and see their pathetic living conditions. Tell your people to visit jails and see their problems. White washing has not been done for years. Taps are not working. Toilets are not working. There is no sewage and the situation is pathetic in jails.”

Considering these issues, the court has therefore set up a committee to look into problems in 1,382 jails of the country. Former SC Justice Amitava Roy would head the committee and would suggest measures on prison reforms to protect the rights of inmates—particularly minor children of women prisoners who are compelled to live in jail.

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