‘In how many days will I get released?’ Tihar prisoners file RTIs to get info

Most prisoners use it to get information about their jail time, entitlements and missing facilities.

delhi Updated: Feb 17, 2018 07:28 IST
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Tihar jail,Tihar prisoners,RTI
There are some 14,500 prisoners lodged at Tihar jail in New Delhi. (Vipin Kumar/HT File Photo)

“Why did we not get lemons this season?” 

“Are we entitled to two glasses of milk every morning ?”

“In how many days will I get released ?”

“Why are we not provided mosquito repellent?”

These are some of the questions the inmates of Delhi’s Tihar Jail have asked authorities under the Right to Information Act. The prison headquarters, which houses senior officials who carry out administrative work, gets, on an average, two queries every day. In December, they received more than 70 applications. In January, it was 59. Prisoners are exempt from paying for RTI applications.

Most prisoners use it to get information about their jail time, entitlements and missing facilities. There are at least 14,500 prisoners lodged at Tihar, India’s most crowded jail.

There is no shortage of help for those seeking information for the first time. A senior jail officer said on the condition of anonymity that former Congress youth president Sushil Sharma, convicted for killing his wife in the so-called tandoor murder case, is one of the high-profile inmates who helps prisoners access their legal rights through RTI. “Prisoners like Sharma have been behind bars for 22 years and have become well-versed in law and constitutional rights. They are like in-house lawyers for prisoners, helping them with their court cases, and especially in getting information from RTI,” said an officer.

Then there are those who are happy to persist if an RTI application has not yielded the required information. In January last year, a prisoner who had not received information from jail authorities about the prescribed diet for undertrials, the high cost of fruits in the canteen and if kheer (dessert) was on the menu twice a week, had approached the information commission.

There is no lack of variety on which information is sought. Sunil Gupta, who was Tihar’s law officer for 35 years till his retirement in 2016, said, “RTI applications are filed to get medical records from the jail. Prisoners visit doctors and are treated at the jail hospital. They do not have direct access to their medical papers, so they file applications to get those papers and submit them in court for bail or their treatment outside.”

Raj Kumar, additional inspector general, Tihar who is also the prison spokesperson, said the authorities try to respond to all the queries from the prisoners. “We share whatever information can be shared and treat inmates at par with citizens outside.”

First Published: Feb 17, 2018 07:28 IST