Row erupts as Jain seen getting massage in Tihar

Published on Nov 19, 2022 11:24 PM IST

A video of Delhi minister Satyendar Jain was circulated on social media in which he is seen getting a massage from an inmate in his cell inside Tihar jail, sparking a sharp offensive from the Bharatiya Janata Party amid allegations that he was being given special treatment in prison

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HT Image
By, New Delhi

A video of Delhi minister Satyendar Jain was circulated on social media in which he is seen getting a massage from an inmate in his cell inside Tihar jail, sparking a sharp offensive from the Bharatiya Janata Party amid allegations that he was being given special treatment in prison.

HT could not independently verify the authenticity of the video, ostensibly recorded by a CCTV camera inside the prison on three days — September 13, 14 and 21. The CCTV footage was handed to the Enforcement Directorate on the agency’s request as part of its probe into money laundering allegations against the Aam Aadmi Party leader, officials familiar with the matter said.

BJP national spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia said the video shows that Jain was being treated as a VIP in prison.

“Why is this massage being provided to the prisoner? Why is Jain not in the jail uniform meant for prisoners? The video shows four people in Jain’s cell. Why are so many people being allowed in the cell? The chief minister should answer this,” he said.

At least 28 prison officials posted in Tihar jail number 7, where Jain is lodged, were transferred on Wednesday. Two days earlier, jail superintendent Ajit Kumar was suspended for his alleged role in circumventing rules to give special facilities to Jain. Until his arrest earlier this year, former health and home minister Jain, was also in charge of prisons.

While BJP leaders filed a police complaint against Jain, the AAP’s senior leader and deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia accused the party of leaking the video and weaving a false narrative.

Sisodia said Jain was unwell, and was being treated in prison for his illness.

“The BJP, as part of a conspiracy, got our colleague arrested. A person is unwell and being treated. The BJP leaked the tape, is weaving a false narrative and is making fun of the man,” he said.

The Delhi deputy CM said that Jain suffered a spinal injury after a fall inside the prison, and was recommended physiotherapy by his doctors.

“Jain is in jail for 6 months. While in jail, he slipped and was injured in the spine. Due to this spine injury, he has undergone two surgeries and while discharging him, the doctors had recommended that physiotherapy should be provided. This is not a luxury body massage but pressure therapy being provided to an injured person,” Sisodia said.

He contended that such treatment is provided in every jail in the country, and that no rules were violated.

Delhi BJP leaders Parvesh Sahib Singh Verma, Manjinder Singh Sirsa and Tajender Pal Singh Bagga filed a complaint at the Hari Nagar police station over the matter. Terming the video as “illegal activities” inside the jail, the three said that jail officials should be investigated in the case. “Satyendar Jain has not only taken illegal powers in his hand but he is trying his level best to set a wrong precedent in jail, which will in long run affect the smooth functioning of the jail,” the complaint said.

The Delhi Police are yet to file an FIR on the complaint.

Prison officials said there is no provision in the jail manual that allows inmates to provide massages to other prisoners.

A prison official, asking not to be named, said: “First of all, what was happening is not a physiotherapy session. Secondly, there are physiotherapy centres within the jail complex. The facility is available at the jail hospital too. Prisoners do not give physiotherapy sessions there. Experts from outside or medical staff in the jail hospital are engaged in this service.”

Jain moved court on Saturday, seeking contempt proceedings against the Enforcement Directorate for allegedly leaking the CCTV footage to the media in which he was seen receiving massage inside Tihar.

Last month, the ministry of home affairs (MHA) sought a report from Delhi chief secretary Naresh Kumar regarding allegations that Jain was availing “special treatment” inside Tihar prisons in connivance with the jail authorities. MHA sought the report after ED informed a Delhi court that Jain was living a “luxurious lifestyle” with facilities such as face, head and foot massages, fruits and salads as well as meeting his family members and the witnesses of the case in which he has been arrested.

The prison official cited above said that while prisoners are allowed to visit each other in their cells during “free time” and buy mineral water from the prison’s canteen, the video showed a stack of mineral water bottles in Jain’s cell; another rule that was circumvented in Jain’s case was access to home-cooked food.

“Most influential and rich prisoners often request for home-made food. This is denied by court and jail authorities. In the former minister’s case, he was getting delivery of food from his house,” the official quoted above said.

“As part of the inquiry, the prison department is also checking the number of visitors who came to his cell. Usually, prisoners are allowed to meet their family members in a designated space within the prison complex, twice a week. The names of the visitors have to be mentioned in the records. There is also a limit in the number of persons who can visit the prisoners. If any name is to be added, one has to first seek permission from the jail superintendent,” the official added.

ED arrested Jain in May under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). The central agency’s probe is based on a 2017 case of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in which the AAP leader and his wife Poonam Jain were accused of amassing disproportionate assets worth 1.47 crore between February 2015 and May 2017, which was 217% more than their known sources of income. The agency has also alleged that Jain set up shell companies to launder money between 2011 and 2016.

Jain has denied the allegations, and the AAP has described CBI and ED action as “political vendetta”.

Sunil Gupta, who was the prison’s law officer for over three decades, said: “The matter should be probed thoroughly. This is no therapy. If the prisoner needed physiotherapy, he could have easily taken the session at the jail’s hospital.”

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