Look who is providing legal aid to the inmates at Tihar jail. It is none other than Santosh Singh, who was awarded a death sentence by the Delhi High Court for raping and murdering Delhi University student Priyadarshini Mattoo on January 23, 1996.
Santosh, a lawyer now lodged in Jail Number 2 at Tihar, is not even charging a fee for his services.
“Although his mercy petition is pending in the Supreme Court, he makes it a point to help the poor prisoners in sorting out legal problems,” said a senior jail official.
Earlier, when Santosh had not been convicted, he was working with a non-government organisation (NGO) and used to visit Tihar jail to help prisoners.
These days he is busy attending legal ‘panchayats’ inside the jail. He helps the convicts in drafting petitions to be submitted in the court, while explaining to them the nuances of law, according to jail officials.
Just a few months ago, when Santosh was brought to Tihar after being convicted of murder, the situation was different. He would not mingle with people and kept a low profile. “When he had come to the jail, he was depressed. Now the situation is far better,” said the official.
He shares his cell with the “tandoor murder” case accused Susheel Sharma.
Santosh was a practising lawyer before he was convicted in 2006 and had stayed in Tihar for three years when the Priyadarshini Mattoo case was being heard in the lower court in 1999.
The lower court had acquitted Santosh of the crime in 1999. Following an appeal by the Central Bureau of Investigation, the case was retried in the Delhi High Court in 2006.
“We encourage inmates to take up reformative measures. We also provide them with books on law from the library and the stationery is also being given free of cost to them,” said Sunil Gupta, law officer, Tihar Prisons.