Sixteen years after ‘biscuit baron’ Rajan Pillai, who was then lodged in Tihar Jail, died after being denied proper treatment for liver cirrhosis, the Delhi High Court on Friday ordered the Delhi Government to pay a compensation of Rs 10.2 lakh to his wife.
The order came on a petition filed in 1998 by Nina Pillai, widow of the Singapore-based business tycoon. Justice S Muralidhar also issued a slew of directions aimed at improving medical care at the jail.
Most of the directions are suggestions by the commission headed by former Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh Leila Seth which probed Pillai’s death. Pillai was arrested from a hotel in Delhi on July 3, 1995, after he fled Singapore ahead of his sentencing in a $17.2 million defrauding case
Concluding that Pillai was a victim of negligence by the jail doctors, the commission had suggested that there be more doctors in the jail, a health care centre functioning round-the-clock and a special laboratory equipped to diagnose all diseases.
Nina told the court that the compensation amount would be used to set up a polytechnic in the name of Rajan Pillai exclusively for girls.
“He died in judicial custody. There is a constitutional and legal obligation of the state to protect the life and liberty of every inmate of a prison,” said Justice S Muralidhar.
The commission had concluded that, “The casual attitude, carelessness and negligence of the doctors at the jail eventually resulted in giving him hardly any chance of survival”.
Nina’s lawyer Manali Singhal told Hindustan Times, “The court order is a vindication of our stand and acceptance of the fact that injustice was done to Rajan Pillai”.
The court found that Pillai had been kept in deplorable conditions in the jail without access to proper treatment which led to the rapid deterioration of his health. When his situation worsened, he was taken to Deen Dayal Upadhyaya hospital in a rickety ambulance “which looked more like a pick-up van with no medical equipment, even a fan or oxygen cylinder”.