Convicted for the rape and murder of Delhi University (DU) law student Priyadarshini Mattoo, Santosh Kumar Singh is better known as a helpful lawyer by inmates of Tihar Central prison complex.
On death row since October 2006, Singh, according to a jail source, was “visibly elated on Wednesday”, on hearing that the Supreme Court (SC) had commuted his punishment to life.
“He was quite hopeful about being spared the noose though and would tell other inmates how he had been wronged,” said the source.
However, demons from his past still haunt him.
Singh, said the source, is a tormented soul, who has stayed in denial about his crime and broods over it.
He is known to discuss the minutiae of his case with sympathetic inmates and officials.
Inside the jail, however, Singh has put to good use his legal training at DU and experience of practice at the Tis Hazari court. Known for peppering discussions with inmates with quotes from the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Evidence Act, Singh has sought solace and sustenance in what he knows best -- law.
As part of the obligatory ‘labour’ to be undertaken by convicts, Singh runs the sub-jail’s Legal Aid Cell, that has three other inmates as members. Tall and lean, mostly attired in clean, ironed clothes, Singh is fond of stylish leather footwear.
Singh’s job profile, said the source, includes “identifying and counselling” inmates in need of legal assistance.
Said to be proficient in English and in drafting legal documents, Singh helps in preparing “bail pleas or petitions of the inmates”, said the source.
Singh also doubles up as the librarian of the sub-jail’s Spartan Law Library.
He takes keen interest in cyber technology and instructs inmates at the sub-jail’s computer training centre as well.
“Santosh Singh has a record of good conduct in the jail. Asked by the SC a month ago, we had attested to his good conduct and role as a lawyer, librarian and teacher,” said Tihar jail spokesperson Sunil Gupta.
“His good conduct might have helped him in getting the death term commuted to life,” Gupta added.