SC asks Centre, state for Tihar reforms deadline
The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Centre and the Delhi government to hold a meeting within a week and suggest timebound steps to plug security lapses at the Tihar jail where prison officials allegedly colluded with former Unitech promoters Sanjay and Ajay Chandra to help them carry out their illegal activities from within the jail.
After going through an affidavit submitted by the ministry of home affairs (MHA) that produced communications exchanged in this regard between the Centre, Delhi government and Tihar authorities, a bench of justices Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud and MR Shah said, “We are not interested in this paperwork. You should come up with corrective measures to ensure such incidents do not happen in future.”
On August 26, the Supreme Court ordered shifting of the Chandra brothers to separate jails in Mumbai, and sought a report from Delhi Police commissioner Rakesh Asthana. The top cop proposed 23 actionable points to be carried out at Tihar jail.
On October 6, the court directed the Centre to suggest corrective steps based on Asthana’s recommendations, which included call blocking, surveillance by CCTVs, changes in service roster of jail employees, and training of staff.
However, unsatisfied with the progress made in the matter, the bench on Thursday directed the Union home secretary to chair a meeting with Delhi chief secretary and DG (Prisons), Tihar within a week where Delhi Police commissioner, who prepared the reform road map, shall be an invitee. “The meeting to be held within one week shall take concrete decision on the report of commissioner of Delhi Police and file a comprehensive affidavit on the manner in which implementation (of the report) is to be carried out,” the bench said, posting the matter after three weeks.
Additional solicitor general (ASG) Madhavi Divan, appearing for the Centre, informed the court that the Centre endorsed each of the reforms contained in the report, but since prisons was a state subject, it could not impress upon the Delhi administration to implement the steps. She said that on December 7, Director General (Prisons) wrote to the Centre about steps taken under each of the 23 points suggested by Asthana.
The court asked additional solicitor general (ASG) KM Nataraj, representing Delhi Police, on the progress on each step. Nataraj said, “The administration of jail falls under Delhi government. We can still seek instructions.”
Upset over this attitude, the bench said, “What on earth is happening? Tihar authorities say the jail is not our baby but of Delhi government.” Nobody represented Delhi government.
The bench in its order said, “We are of the view that passing of buck between the MHA at the level of DG-Prisons and Delhi government must be dealt with by effective coordination. The report of the Commissioner of Delhi Police will gather dust unless effective steps are not taken.”