Delhi’s CM in Tihar’s Jail No. 2: Books and home food allowed | Latest News Delhi - Hindustan Times
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Delhi’s CM in Tihar’s Jail No. 2: Books and home food allowed

Apr 02, 2024 05:18 AM IST

Prison officials said he was allowed to carry several books – including the Ramayana, Mahabharata, and How Prime Ministers Decide by Neerja Chowdhury.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, whose government oversees the functioning of India’s largest prison, was taken to Tihar’s jail No 2 on Monday evening after a special court sent him to judicial custody till April 15, and he was lodged in ward No 4 as the sole inmate.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal leaves from the ED office for the Rouse Avenue Court in New Delhi on Monday. (Arvind Yadav/HT Photo)
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal leaves from the ED office for the Rouse Avenue Court in New Delhi on Monday. (Arvind Yadav/HT Photo)

Prison officials said he was allowed to carry several books – including the Ramayana, Mahabharata, the Bhagavad Gita and How Prime Ministers Decide by Neerja Chowdhury – along with a religious locket. He was also allowed home-cooked food.

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But Kejriwal, who has issued two orders since his arrest on March 21 by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with the now-scrapped liquor policy, might find working as CM practically difficult during his stay in Tihar Jail, given the prison rules and the security arrangements, said two prison officials.

“Except the prison’s documents, no file can be taken inside the jails. The government files cannot be sent inside the CM’s cell for his signature. Unless the courts give such an order, he cannot hold meetings within the prison,” said a jail officer, requesting anonymity.

Also read: Arvind Kejriwal's schedule at Tihar jail: Lunch at 11 am, dinner at 6:30 pm…

“The jail officers cannot allow him to hold cabinet meetings. This can be done only on the permission of the court.”

There is also a limit related to prisoners meeting their family members and a maximum of 10 people can be allowed in total — three at a time.

The first official said that even if Kejriwal submitted the names of his cabinet colleagues as prospective visitors, it will need to be approved by the jail superintendent, who reports to director general (prisons). If approved, such meetings can only happen twice a week, that too for not more than 30 minutes.

In addition, there cannot not be any physical contact between Kejriwal and visitors. The CM will have to submit a list of 10 names, ideally family members, who will come to visit him in jail. In one meeting, only three approved visitors can enter the jail compound for the meeting, said the first official, adding that prisoners and visitors are separated by a glass enclosure.

They speak over the intercom. “A prison closes before sunset. A CM’s office is open round-the clock. How can any bureaucrat or people from CM’s office be allowed to come to prison after sunset?” the first official added.

In recent years, only former Sahara chairman, Subrata Roy, and Sanjay and Ajay Chandra of Unitech builders were allowed to have their offices, video conferencing facilities, and phones. But they were permitted this on the orders of the Supreme Court as a temporary measure so that they could sell their properties and pay debtors. “None of their visitors were allowed to come to the jail after sunset,” the first official added.

The third reason why running an office from jail is difficult, officials said, is the limited means of communication.

According to the rules, Kejriwal will be allowed to speak over the phone (ideally to his blood relative) for five minutes daily. In case he wants to speak to anyone else, the number has to be shared with the superintendent, who can approve or deny the request.

The first official said that even if the calls are approved, the conversation will be recorded and saved in the prison’s records.

The prison department is yet to comment if Kejriwal is working as the chief minister from jail No 2. Delhi prisons comes under the administrative control of Delhi government. Kejriwal’s colleague ,Kailash Gahlot, is the minister of prisons.

While all jail officials are Delhi government employees, the prison chief ( director general) is a senior IPS officer who reports to the lieutenant governor.

On Monday evening, at around 5.30pm, Kejriwal was escorted to jail No 2, where he was kept alone in a single cell like his party colleagues Satyendar Jain, Manish Sisodia, and Sanjay Singh, owing to security reasons. Jain is lodged in jail No 7, Sisodia in jail No 1 and Singh in jail No 5. To be sure, Kejriwal is alone in the cell but is not in solitary confinement.

Officials aware of the matter said the jail administration zeroed on a cell in ward No 4 of jail 2 after checking the antecedents of other prisoners and confirming that they were not a threat to Kejriwal’s life. Jail 2 has around 650 inmates of which around 90% are convicts. It is known as a convict’s jail.

Unarmed guards are providing security outside Kejriwal’s cell. A separate quick reaction team is also posted in the jail to react to any emergency, they added.

“We identified convicts who have been in jail for over a decade. Their conduct has been good and they do not pose a threat to anyone. Whenever the cell gates are open during the day, Kejriwal will be free to meet and interact with fellow prisoners around him. He is lodged alone in a cell, but it is not solitary confinement,” said a second official aware of the matter.

The jail compound where Kejriwal is lodged also houses prisoners such as underworld don Chhota Rajan and gangster Neeraj Bawana but they are confined to a building called the high-risk cell and do not get to meet or interact with other prisoners.

Also, no prisoner can go to Rajan or Bawana’s cells, which are guarded by paramilitary forces personnel.

“Kejriwal will be free to move around whenever the gates of his cell are opened in the morning. The cells open at 6 in the morning for the roll call. As is the rule for all prisoners, tea and biscuits or bread are served around 7-7.30 pm. While other prisoners go out for their court hearings, the others are served brunch between 9.30am – 10am. Until noon, he will interact with other prisoners and can go the library or spend time in the garden near his cell. The gates again close between noon and 3pm. At around 3pm, prisoners can again come out of their cells. Dinner is served at around 6-6.30pm. Prisoners can either have it in the common seating area or take it in their cells. The meals are vegetarian because non vegetarian food is not allowed in Delhi jails,” the second official added.

Kejriwal has been allowed to use library facility and will be escorted by unarmed prison guards for his safety, officials said.

There is a toilet, bathroom and a television set inside his cell. The second official said Kejriwal was given clean bedsheets, bedcover, pillows and an earthen pot to store water in his cell. He will have to sleep on a cemented pedestal in the cell because the prison department does not have a provision for beds to inmates.

However, he has been allowed to get his own mattress, quilt and sheets, based on a court order.

“He had made some requests, which have been rejected as it is not allowed under prison rules,” the second officer said without disclosing the nature of requests that were turned down by the prison department.

The cell where Kejriwal was sent on Monday evening also has a CCTV camera, like the many other cells with such a facility. The live feed of the CCTV cameras is sent to a screen in the jail superintendent’s office and the offices of the top prison officials.

Also read: Delhi Assembly discusses arrest of CM, MLAs repeat poaching bid

“The court’s order in Kejriwal case allowed medicines and home food on medical grounds. We will abide by the order even as the prison food is healthy and there are lots of options available. If he wants jail food that will also be made available to him. But whatever food is brought to prison will be checked strictly by officials to stop any banned item from entering the prison,” the second official said.

He can also carry medicines and sweets (in case sugar level falls) for his medical condition. He has also been given a sugar level monitoring device from the jail dispensary, officials said.

A third prison officer said that after entering the prison, Kejriwal kept to himself because by the time he reached his cell, the gates for all other prisoners were locked.

Meanwhile, Sunita Kejriwal, the wife of Delhi CM, who arrived in the court alleged that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief was being kept in jail with the aim to keep him away from campaigning for the Lok Sabha elections.

“He has been interrogated for 11 days, and the interrogation is over. The court has not found him guilty, then why has he been put in jail,” she said while talking to reporters in the corridors of the court.

AAP MLA and its candidate from New Delhi Lok Sabha constituency Somnath Bharti said the opposition was being denied a level playing field. “PM Narendra Modi cannot win elections on the level playing field, he is sure to lose. They must remember that they have only arrested the body of Arvind Kejriwal, his courage and spirits are now with every person,” he said.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
    author-default-90x90

    Prawesh Lama covers crime, policing, and issues of security in Delhi. Raised in Darjeeling, educated in Mumbai, he also looks at special features on social welfare in the National Capital.

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