Every night at 10.30, television sets kept in the barracks and cells of the high-profile Tihar Jail are switched off. But this could end soon, if the request for judicial intervention by two inmates is granted. The two want the Supreme Court to issue a direction to the jail authorities to allow them to watch television—their only contact with the world outside and the sole source of entertainment—in the night.
Two inmates, lodged in Tihar’s sub-jail number 4, have recently written a letter to the Supreme Court, seeking the lifting of the ban on watching television in the night. The letter, said a jail source, claimed that peering at “little 16-inch TV sets”, showing informative programmes as well as comedies, is their “sole source of entertainment” and “a respite” from the drudgery and depression of their lives in jail.
Around 90% of the inmates are under-trials, who are only accused of crime. Most of them “languish in the jail” in the absence of bail, said the letter. “The state should not deprive them” of the right to watch television all night, it claimed.
After 10.30pm, the jail barracks turn into “a zone of darkness” when the television sets, “which heal our minds”, are switched off, the letter said. Watching television “for a few hours” provides the under-trials a break from their “chronic depression, tension and shock,” it added.
The letter writers, whose names have been withheld to protect their privacy, added that due to the shock and “overcrowded” living spaces, the under-trials often struggle to sleep in the night.
The jail authorities have kept TV sets around the prison complex’s 170 barracks, which house between 50 to 100 inmates. There are television sets in the cells where about three to five inmates live. Inmates are allowed to watch TV from noon to 3pm and from 7pm to 10.30pm in the evening.
When asked about the letter’s content and request, the jail’s spokesperson Sunil Gupta confirmed it, but said, “I do not think their request is as per the existing jail rules.”
Gupta added, “If the TV sets are not switched off at 10.30pm, then those who want to sleep won’t be able to. This might lead to fights between those wanting to watch TV and those who want to relax and sleep. Who will then handle this situation?”