Faced with numerous inquiries over prisoner deaths, Tihar officials now desperately want to get rid of ‘terminally ill’ undertrials, some of whom are booked for non-bailable offences and even face murder charges.
The High Court on Monday said it would examine if some undertrials could be released on bail to decongest the penitentiary, which is crowded with prisoners over twice its capacity.
Tihar authorities have to submit by July 25 a list of prisoners being tried for offences that attract a maximum of seven years’ imprisonment.
Jail authorities, however, do not want to keep certain prisoners even till then. In an affidavit submitted to the High Court, they listed 11 prisoners who they claim are terminally ill. Two of them were recently given bail on trial courts’ directions.
“As per jail manual, prison superintendents inform respective trial courts about seriously ill prisoners who can be released on bail,” said Tihar’s law officer Sunil Gupta.
Rakesh Lal, who is charged with murder, suffers from cervical fracture with seizure disorder, states the affidavit. A case was registered against him in east Delhi in 2004. Mahesh, booked for murder in 1996, suffers from tuberculosis and damaged lungs. If proved guilty, the worst these two can get is death sentence.
Rajpal Singh is charged with theft, a non-bailable offence, in a case registered at the Kashmiri Gate police station. He suffers from a chronic pulmonary disease. “It is risky to keep such prisoners since they are terminally ill,” said a Tihar official.
Six Tihar prisoners died between June 6 and June 12. Although jail officials claimed that all were natural deaths, cases of culpable homicide were registered against unknown accused in three of these deaths after magisterial probes. This brought living conditions inside Tihar under scrutiny.
Against a sanctioned strength of 6,250 prisoners, Tihar had over 13,300 inmates. The National Crime Records Bureau statistics show that 80 per cent of Tihar inmates are undertrials, against the national average of 65.5 per cent.
Meghalaya tops the list with 87.2 undertrials and Bihar is a close second with 83 per cent.