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Tihar fiasco: When arms of law extend benefits to law-breakers

 
By Ujwal Jalali
New Delhi, Nov 21 (IANS) The high-security prison in the national capital -- Tihar Jail -- known even before independence to keep the criminals at bay, has received much humiliation in the past six months as over 40 officials at the prison have been booked by various law enforcement agencies during the past six months for extending benefits to the prisoners in one or the other way.


But still there is a catch! The quid pro quo vis-a-vis benefits extended by the accused tainted officials were only meant for the rich prisoners. Inmate or outmate -- the poor always stand last in the line.

Firstly, it was the Chandra brothers -- Ajay Chandra and Sanjay Chandra -- former promoters of Unitech, who "utilised the services" of the accused officials.

Notably, both Chandra brothers Ajay and Sanjay, who are in jail since August 2017, are accused of siphoning off home buyers' money.

On October 12, as many as 32 Tihar Jail officials were found complicit with the former Unitech promoters.

It was alleged that the Chandra brothers were conducting business from inside the Tihar Jail in connivance with the prison staff.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) too highlighted certain disturbing facts relating to the manner in which the premises of Central Jail Tihar was misused by both the inmates.

The financial investigating agency also made a startling revelation. The ED said they also unearthed a "secret underground office" in south Delhi being operated by the erstwhile Unitech founder Ramesh Chandra and visited by his sons Sanjay and Ajay while on parole or bail.

The Supreme Court, after taking note of the status report filed by the ED, transferred both the brothers from Central Jail Tihar, Delhi to Arthur Road Jail, Mumbai and Taloja Central Jail, Mumbai.

The Apex Court also directed Delhi Police Commissioner Rakesh Asthana to make an immediate inquiry into the matter.

After this, the Delhi Police chief submitted a report on September 28.

The confidential report prepared by Asthana named the jail officials involved.

It also proposed 23 action points that required immediate consideration of the Centre for enhanced prison management at Tihar.

The recommendations included installation of jammers and body scanners.

However, the top court on November 10, expressed its dissatisfaction over the delay by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in taking action on recommendations submitted by Commissioner Asthana on the prison reforms. It observed that it is a 'sorry state of affairs' in Tihar jail which has become a 'den of criminals'.

The court told Additional Solicitor General K.M. Nataraj that recommendations made by the Delhi Police Commissioner were very important and the court wants MHA to take steps to implement them. Even before the dust could settle in the Chandra case, Tihar prison, yet again, found itself in troubled waters.

The silk stocking multi millionaire "conman" -- Sukesh Chandrashekhar -- who is accused of duping the businessmen, politicians and celebrities, too utilised the services of another lot of tainted officials in the Tihar prison.

Sukesh was incarcerated at the Tihar Jail in 2017 after he duped politician T.T.V. Dhinakaran of Rs 50 crore.

Delhi Police's Crime Branch arrested Sukesh on Dhinakaran's complaint and he was sent to the jail.

What was astonishing was that the "conman" continued to run the racket from inside of the Tihar Jail.

He is accused of extorting Rs 200 crore from the family of former Fortis Healthcare and Ranbaxy Lab promoters Shivinder and Malvinder Singh from the premises of the prison.

But how did he do that? Certainly there was an inside help, but the price of that help was also too high.

The conman was reportedly giving Rs 75 lakh per fortnight as a bribe for a mobile phone.

Later Delhi Police's Economic Offences Wing arrested five top Tihar Jail officials, however, the ways adopted by Sukesh to con the Singhs had been extremely "impressive".

Sukesh, while calling Shivinder's wife, claimed himself as Union Law Secretary Anoop Kumar and offered her to help in getting bail for her husband.

In August 2020, he used a spoofing app to pretend that he was calling from the then Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad's home. Before disconnecting every call, Sukesh used to say "Jai Hind".

Not to forget, all of this happened inside a prison. Usage of a mobile phone inside a prison is a matter of concern, however, can be tackled with the usage of apt technology.

Director General (Prisons) Sandeeep Goyal told IANS they are installing three new towers inside the jail premises that would confine the mobile signals emanating from the prison.

Apart from mobile towers or jammers, Goyal said they have recently installed over 7,000 CCTV cameras in all their jails to keep a close eye on the inmates.

"Every jail has at least 500-600 cameras. The feed taken from the CCTVs remains for at least one month," the Tihar DG said, adding that it is a good step and can prove beneficial in future.

As the need for body scanners also emerged during a Supreme Court hearing, Goyal said that they are in the process of acquiring two whole body X-Ray scanners.

"We have received the permission from Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) in this regard and soon the scanners will be installed at the Tihar Jail," the DG added.

-- IANS
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