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Two Issues: Tihar Jail’s Misadministration –&– Legitimacy of Death Sentence

It seems better to start by letting the audiences of this post know that, this write up is  neither going to focus on Delhi Moving Bus Gang rape Issue nor on Progress made in the case, though it deals with the death of one of the accused of Delhi Moving Bus Gang rape . The focus here is on administration of Tihar Jail. The write up then turns towards another aspect of issue, which is the demand by some of activists to government and judiciary of country the rape convicts should be condemned and executed. The write up simply raises the issue that can execution be any kind of punishment. It is normal understanding that when one talks of punishment, then in the process of punishment the individual being punished, does not lose his life from the very to the very end of the process. Such punishment where an individual has to lose his life is also against the very spirit of the Constitution of Indian Republic that provides Right to Life as Fundamental Right of any individual.

 The people from media, and through them others, were aware that all accused in case were on suicide watch and such prisoners are never left alone. In such a scenario how can one of the accused (Ram Singh) commit suicide without being noticed by Jail Administration or even his three cell mates? This is a question of administration and security inside India’s fortress-like Tihar Jail, the nation’s largest such facility.

 Can the mysterious death of Delhi gang-rape prime accused be taken at face value? It is an unbelievable suicide case, if taken on face value, as this requires the person committing suicide to possess gymnastic dexterity and phantom-like stealth. Even if one is ready to buy this story, then what are circumstances due to which, the rest four accused of infamous Delhi rape case when produced in front of fast track court (which is listening case), pleaded with folded hands said ‘Shoot us, but don’t send us back there’(Source). This aspect again stops the people from buying the story as narrated Prison staff.  .

This makes it necessary for the people, living outside the Tihar Jail, to learn what transpires inside the Tihar Jail, or to say how the inmates are dealt with inside the Tihar Jail. The other important issue is that how the jail administration communicates of incidents happening inside, while addressing/ informing the people living outside the Tihar Jail.

 The suicide (murder) by (of) accuse Ram Singh occurred despite of the fact that, two months ago, Delhi Police allegedly intercepted calls from a Tihar Jail inmate, who was illegally using the phone of a jail employee. In one conversation the inmate, say sources, hinted that there could be an attack on the five men accused of brutally gang-raping a medical student on a bus in Delhi. Sources said that in the conversation allegedly intercepted by the police, the inmate indicated that the rape accused could be attacked while on their way to the Saket fast track court for daily hearings. Tihar jail officials were reportedly briefed about this specific threat and security for the five men was increased. Lately, about 20 to 30 gun-toting policemen would escort them to the court and inside it. The Tihar Jail authorities are yet to submit a preliminary report on Ram Singh’s death, the circumstances of which have raised many questions (Source).

To get an understanding of what transpires inside Tihar Jail, you need to talk to someone who has stayed there for considerable time. The best would be the individual who has stayed in Tihar as under trail. Probably a serious will to learn the situation inside made one of the correspondents (Mr. Vicky Nanjappa) (Source) to have some dialogues with Professor S. A. R. Geelani (who spent several years in Tihar Jail). S A R Geelani, a Delhi University Professor who was acquitted in the 2001 Parliament attack case, spent a considerable amount of time in Tihar.

 FIRST ISSUE – THE ADMINISTRATION IN SIDE TIHAR JAIL

It all started with mysterious death of Ram Singh, the prime accused in the December 16, 2012 Delhi gang-rape case, inside Tihar Jail on Monday has raised doubts about security at the high-profile prison.

 Professor S. A. R. Geelani’s first person account of an inmate’s life inside Tihar Jail:

 The moment you enter this prison, you feel as though you are going back to the 13th century.

Based on what I have heard of other jails and when I compare that to my own experience in Tihar Jail, this prison appears to be the worst in the country.

The problem begins with the authorities. The prisoners are made to feel like slaves and each one is at the mercy of the authorities. I assure you that no untoward incident can ever take place inside Tihar without the knowledge of at least one jail staff member.

The other thing I noticed was the differential treatment among prisoners. If you are an ordinary citizen, you can expect the worst. But if you are well-connected politically or have a lot of money, then you can buy your way through to comforts. I have seen several well-connected people get their way easily in Tihar.

It is hard to believe the kind of gang wars that take place there. Very often, members of rival gangs are lodged in the same cell. Very often, the authorities turn a blind eye to fights between gangs, which is quite a disgusting sight. I have witnessed it several times.

 Security in Tihar is tight. Each prisoner is under constant watch. The militants are imprisoned in high-security areas and there is not much communication with them. Their cells are very well guarded. There is ample security for the other inmates as well, and that is why I say nothing untoward can happen without the knowledge of the authorities.

There also exists a communal sentiment inside Tihar Jail. It can get communally charged at times. In my observation, it is the jail authorities who ignite such feelings. I find it hard to believe that Ram Singh hanged himself. He was under suicide watch and such prisoners are not left alone, even for a moment. It is therefore impossible for him to have committed suicide. I also fail to understand how Singh could have hung himself from the ceiling. Every cell in Tihar has a very high ceiling and it is impossible to reach it.

 Let us assume that he managed to reach the ceiling with great difficulty. There would have been a lot of noise and this would have drawn the attention of the authorities. There were three other inmates with him in that cell. I am sure he could not have killed himself without waking up them up.

 Observations

 Some of the inferences that can be deduced from the first person account provide above, is that this suicide makes an issue for serious thinking and dialogue. It is courts who send people to jail for keeping law and order situation under control outside the Jail. Inside the jails, it’s assumed that due to availability of law and order enforcing personnel, i.e., people of Police Services, people inside the jail would not have to suffer violation of law and order in any way and their fundamental rights would be ensured.

Somehow, if the scenario is same as told by S A R Geelani, then Hon’ble Judges delivering the judgments need to think thrice, before sentencing anyone to Jail. It’s further expected that the Courts of Law take a serious note of such an issue, i.e., loss of life occurring inside Jail of an inmate, not condemned by law after following full procedure. Even if the jail inmate has been condemned by the courts, then too till the time individual is alive should be permitted to live in a dignified manner and should also be permitted to take recourse to all the legal options available there forth. When and as all the options available have been exhausted and individual has not been provided any relief by any of them, then too, only the legal process as described in the Jail manual should be for execute the condemned person.

 SECOND ISSUE – VALIDITY OF DEATH SENTENCE AS PUNISHMENT

The author in his personal opinion does not favor the provisions of capital punishment. If an individual has committed any crime leading to loss of life of any member of the society, and as a punishment hangs him, then probably there is no difference between that individual and the society. This is being argued for the reasons that if death happens to be one of the forms of punishment, the individual, who has been sentenced to death, may also have executed an individual with the intention of punishing him for his deeds, meaning thereby, that individual too had followed the same process as has been followed by the society. Now who will hang the society or the individuals who ordered and committed the execution, and even if any authority can get this done, then where this process will end?

 If any individual argues that such a provision works as deterrent for people who think of repeating those kinds of heinous acts, then too, I do not find any sanity in this argument and request to authorities that such individuals be lodged in reform homes under careful supervision of specialists.

 Loss of life has neither worked nor will ever work as deterrent to anyone except cowards. Let me put two extreme but non – related observations:

1. If loss of life would have worked as deterrent, then you would have got none to join the armed forces of nation. As securing the nation and advancing in enemy territory, both are expected to start with sacrificing the life. This means there exist motives and emotions which makes an individual feel that achieving the objective being pursued by him/ her is many times valuable than his own life. Or can I expect that someone will offer a different reason for individuals turning them into Fedayeen’s (living and moving Human Bomb)?

 2. If the execution of a condemned person works as deterrent for people who think of repeating those kinds of heinous acts, then probably after execution of Mr. Nathuram Godse, for his act of killing Mr. Gandhi, there would not had occurred any incident involving the assignations of top political leaders in the country. Somehow such acts have only increased in number as can be seen in the cases of Mrs. Indira Gandhi, Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, Mr Baint Singh and some more political personalities.

 I am halting this deliberation here, and if required, may proceed further. Till then happy reading and Good Luck,

                                                                                                      ——————–Always Yours, as Usual — Saurabh Singh

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