Drugs smuggled in over boundary wall, sold in Tihar jail
The racket was exposed after a probe was ordered into the death of Sikander Dogra who, according to a prison officer aware of the inquiry report, complained about drug smuggling inside jail No 1. Two days later, on September 24, he was stabbed to death by four prisoners.Updated: Oct 23, 2020, 01:48 IST
An inquiry into the death of a prisoner inside Tihar jail last month has revealed that drugs and other contraband are regularly thrown into the premises from across the compound wall and sold to the inmates.
The racket was exposed after a probe was ordered into the death of Sikander Dogra who, according to a prison officer aware of the inquiry report, complained about drug smuggling inside jail No 1. Two days later, on September 24, he was stabbed to death by four prisoners.
“We have found that the drugs inside jail 1 were being brought inside the jail with the help of outsiders who throw the banned items into the prison. The prison wall shares its boundary with different roads, such as the main Jail Road in Hari Nagar. Once the drugs were thrown inside the prison, they would be picked up by the prisoners and then sold to other inmates. Getting banned items inside through the main gate is difficult because of the multilayer security,” said the prison officer, requesting anonymity.
After Dogra blew the whistle on the racket, a group of prisoners also managed to record videos on phones smuggled into the prison that were later posted on social media. In the videos, the prisoners alleged that some jail officers were also involved in Dogra’s murder.
The officer cited above said that although there have been instances of jail warders finding mobile phones being used by inmates, smuggled in using the same modus operandi, this is the first time that they have found an organised network throwing drugs into the prison compounds.
Many former prisoners that HT spoke to said on condition of anonymity that the price of a banned item inside jail increases multiple times compared to what it costs outside. “A bundle of bidi could cost less than ₹50 outside, but inside the jail, its price could be around ₹500. There are gangs inside each jail who trade in such banned items and set a price on the item,” a former prisoner said.
“Some places were identified as the drop zones. During the inquiry, some inmates came forward with anecdotal claims of prisoners receiving packets of marijuana and hashish from across the road. We have marked the drop zones and recommended large fishing nets to be placed between the walls of the prison and the road’s boundary wall (outside) to ensure that banned items do not land at these drop zones and are caught in the net,” said a second prison officer.
The report will be submitted to the prison’s director general. The inquiry will also look into how the four men who stabbed Dogra smuggled a knife inside the prison. A warder, who filed the report on Dogra’s death, has mentioned that a knife was used in the murder.
“It is always the endeavour of the prison department that no contraband item enters the jails,” Sandeep Goel, director general of Delhi prisons, told HT. “The prison officers are briefed to always be on alert and prevent any entry of any banned items inside the jails. Further if any violation is noticed, action is taken against the inmates and even the staff found engaged in any manner in such illegal activity.”
Dogra was arrested by the police in February 2019 for illegal possession of arms. Police records show Dogra was named in at least 20 criminal cases such as robbery, snatching, murder, vehicle theft and under the Arms Act.
In the past, there have been cases of prisoners who tried to successfully smuggle drugs or cell phones by taking it orally or hiding it in the body cavities. Prisoners have also been admitted to hospital when they were unable to get the smuggled items out of their body. Before taking the banned items inside prison, such items are wrapped in polythene sheets and hidden in body cavities. Jail officials suspect that this case could be an organised racket of getting drugs and selling them inside prison. The government is yet to allow the use of body scanners inside the prison -- a longstanding demand by Tihar prisons.
Prison expert Sunil Gupta, who was Tihar prison’s law officer for over three decades until his retirement in 2015, said the prison officers must look into the role of the jail staff too. “It is difficult to smuggle a single items inside the prison without the involvement of an insider. By saying that the drugs were thrown into the prison negates the role of jail personnel in the inquiry. When banned items are thrown into the prison, it is often picked up by the jail personnel. Prisoners do not have access to all corners of the prison. The trade of smuggled items depend on how strict the superintendent is,” he said.