From the unlettered, and school dropouts, to a suspended Indian Police Service (IPS) officer, instances of Tihar prison inmates seeking answers from the authorities under the Right To Information Act (RTI) are increasing.
This year, the jail authorities received 402 applications under the Right To Information Act , which was a “record”, according to jail spokesperson Sunil Gupta.
Compared with the 2008 figure, this year’s tally showed a hike of “around 400 per cent.”
“In 2007-2008, we had received only 108 applications under the RTI,” said Gupta.
The queries, for which Director General (prisons) B.K. Gupta is the sanctioned appellate authority, get their answers with a month.
All it takes for an inmate to file an application, under the jail rules, is Rs 10. An inmate is required to pay Rs 10 to a specified jail clerk who provides him with a receipt that accompanies the application.
“Inmates have to submit their RTI applications in a mail box meant for their sub-jail’s superintendent, who in turn forwards them to the Director General,” said Gupta.
Sometimes, said a jail source who is not authorised to talk , “inmates, as a precaution most likely, get their applications mailed directly to the Director General via their families, friends or acquaintances outside.”
A typical RTI application from an inmates concerns issues that have a direct bearing on his case being heard by a court of law, he well-being at the jail and possibilities for an early release or remission in his term. For some, the act has become a “powerful tool” to question the jail authorities, settle scores with perceived rivals, or even suggest amendments in rules and guidelines.
Inmate Ravi Kant Sharma, a suspended IPS officer who has appealed against his conviction in the journalist Shivani Bhatnagar murder case (1999) by a city court, filed an RTI application to discuss the Delhi government’s 2010 guidelines on grant of parole.
“Mr. Sharma asked as to since parole is given to an inmate if a family member of his might be sick, then why should not he get the same if somebody in his spouse’ family might be sick?” spokesperson Gupta.
“Sharma also wanted to know that since an inmate can get parole in case his property gets damaged then why should not he get it for the maintenance of the same property?” said Gupta.