Nearly 16 years after the death of Singapore-based Chairman of Britannia Group Rajan Pillai in judicial custody, the Delhi high court on Friday held the state liable for lapses in providing medical care to him and awarded a "token" compensation of Rs 10 lakh to his wife.
Issuing directions for improvement of facilities inside Tihar jail, where the 'biscuit king' was lodged, Justice S Muralidhar said, "The Delhi Government will, within a period of four weeks from today, pay a token compensation of Rs 10 lakh to petitioners (Nina Rajan Pillai and her two sons) together with costs of litigation quantified at Rs 20,000."
The court allowed Nina to use "the amount in any charitable cause of their choice in keeping with the statement made by them (family)" during the hearing.
The Singapore-based Indian industrialist, who was suffering from various ailments including alcoholic liver cirrhosis, had died at Deen Dayal Upadhayay Hospital here on July 7, 1995 due to lack of proper medical care.
Pillai, who fled from Singapore and was on run to avoid a jail term in a criminal case there, was arrested by the CBI from a five-star hotel here following a red corner notice issued against him.
He was lodged in Tihar jail by a Delhi court during the pendency of extradition proceedings which was initiated by at the request of the Singapore government.
Holding the state liable for lapses which led to his death, Justice Muralidhar said, "Pillai's death occurred while he was in judicial custody. There is both a constitutional and a legal obligation of the state, in terms of Article 21 (right to life) of the Constitution, to protect the life and liberty of every inmate of a prison."
The court, which issued a slew of directions, asked the Delhi government and the Tihar administration to implement recommendations of Justice Leila Seth Commission of Inquiry, instituted to look into the death of Pillai.
The commission, in its report, had held some doctors of the jail liable for the lapses in treating Pillai.
The report called for steps to de-congest "overcrowded" jails and also pointed out that instead of 17 sanctioned posts, only six doctors were working in 1995.
"The prisoners should have access to fresh air and be allowed to spend a large period of their time in purposeful activity and remain unlocked for the maximum period possible," the report said.
Primary healthcare be provided on a 24-hour basis and be supplemented by visiting specialists, it said.
The court also asked Tihar administration to procure a well-equipped ambulance for prisoners.