Seven deaths in seven days at Tihar jail has woken up the authorities. On Wednesday, the Delhi High Court asked the state government and the jail authorities to explain the deaths.
The court’s notices to the government and the jail followed a public interest petition filed by a lawyer.
Late on Tuesday night, a jail warden, Man Singh, 58, who was suffering from kidney and related diseases, died at the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Hospital, a Tihar official said. Six jail inmates died between June 6 and June 12.
Lieutenant Governor Tejinder Khanna has ordered a magisterial inquiry. The National Human Rights Commission is sending a team to investigate, a spokesperson for the watchdog said.
The prison’s legal officer Sunil Gupta said the six inmates had died of natural causes. But A Prasad, medical superintendent at Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, said the intense heat of last week may well have been behind their deaths.
Tihar is heavily overcrowded. The jails inside currently house over 13,500 inmates, though their capacity is 6,250.
"The jails have low-roofed barracks. It becomes suffocating, especially in the afternoon when the prisoners are locked up. The cruel summer has made matters worse," said Kiran Bedi, former inspector general (prisons).
Medical facilities are insufficient. There is a 150-bed central jail hospital and a newly constructed 120-bed de-addiction centre, a jail official said. But there are not enough doctors.
The high court is also hearing another petition on the pathetic medical and sanitary conditions in the jail.