28 Tihar officials suspended, 2 sacked, for helping ex-Unitech bosses
Twenty-eight Tihar jail officers were suspended, and services of two contractual employees were terminated by the director general of prisons on Wednesday evening for their alleged role in helping jailed Unitech ex-promoters Sanjay and Ajay Chandra violate prison rules and run a “secret underground office in south Delhi” from inside the jail, officers aware of the matter said on Wednesday.
The prison department has also written to the Delhi government’s home department to suspend one superintendent and a deputy superintendent, who were named in the case. Prison department comes under the Delhi home department.
These 32 officers were named in an inquiry report submitted to the Supreme Court by Delhi Police commissioner Rakesh Asthana.
To be sure, officers of the rank of superintendent and deputy superintendent can only be suspended by the home department and not the prison headquarters. “The process to suspend them has begun. The director general has already written to the home department. It is likely to happen soon,” one prison officer, who asked not to be named, said.
HT contacted a Delhi government spokesperson for a comment, but they did not respond.
The prison department said that all these 32 jail officials were posted in jail number 7 of Tihar, where the Chandra brothers were lodged until the morning of August 28, when they were shifted to Arthur Road and Taloja jail in Maharashtra on the orders of the Supreme Court.
The accused officers included one superintendent, one deputy superintendent, seven assistant superintendent, 10 head warders, 11 warders and two contractual employees. One of the contractual employees is a data entry operator, another is a nursing orderly, the officials said.
After suspension, the accused will have to face an investigation by the Delhi Police crime branch which filed a first information report (FIR) on Tuesday in the case under sections of Prevention of Corruption Act. The case was registered on the basis of an inquiry report that Delhi Police commissioner Rakesh Asthana’s submitted to the Supreme Court.
On October 6, the Supreme Court, after going through the police commissioner’s report, ordered the government to suspend the officers named in the report.
On August 26, the apex court directed the Delhi Police chief to “personally look” into the role of prison officials after the Enforcement Directorate(ED) informed the court that Sanjay Chandra and Ajay Chandra violated prison rules and ran a “secret underground office” in south Delhi from inside Tihar jail with the help of jail officers.
When contacted, director general (prisons), Sandeep Goel, said,” We have received the letter from Delhi Police with the names of the 32 jail officials who have been found prima facie complicit in the matter, during the inquiry. We are taking further action.”
A mid-level prison officer, who asked not to be named, said in the coming days many prison officers would be transferred within the prison. “This is the first time that so many officers have been suspended in one day, and in a single case. They will also be questioned by the crime branch for their alleged role. Maybe this case will serve as a lesson to jail officials to not to get involved in corrupt practices or help prisoners violate rules by extending favours,” the officer added.
The Chandra brothers were arrested in April 2017 for duping homebuyers in 74 Unitech projects. The two were also being probed by the ED.
The ED, in a report to the apex court, had said that the two businessmen used the prison complex to transfer the proceeds of crime, and were instructing their people to dispose of their properties. The ED had said that it also unearthed a secret underground office’ in Delhi, which was being operated by erstwhile Unitech founder Ramesh Chandra and visited by his two son – Sanjay and Ajay – when they were on parole or bail.
The Delhi Police have also named the Chandra brothers and their father, Ramesh Chandra, in the FIR for bribing jail officers.
“We will start questioning the jail officers. The inquiry found evidence against them indicating they accepted money to extend the favours. This is why we also added sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act,” a crime branch officer, who asked not to be named, said.