The food provided to the prisoners is of the worst quality that can be given to any human being, the quality of the water is severely compromised, 150 inmates are stuffed in a barrack suitable for 50 — these are some of the damning observations made by the Rajasthan High Court, which took suo motu cognizance of the state’s debilitating prison system recently.
Noting that general prisoners live in “pathetic and sub-human conditions”, while VIP inmates have a “gala good time”, the HC slammed the state government for neglecting basic human rights and infrastructural requirements of prisons and filing “false” compliance affidavits.
In a detailed order passed on January 27, a bench comprising Justices J K Ranka and Mohammad Rafiq outlined 45 clear cut directives and ordered the government to file a compliance/progress report before it every month starting April this year.
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These included setting up adequate kitchens, introducing a new breakfast menu, ensuring inmates get one sweet item per week, making enough newspapers and novels available, organising fortnightly movie screenings, construction of adequate toilets and doing away with the system of segregating VIP prisoners, “most of whom are ex-ministers and senior bureaucrats”.
The judgment made sharp, factual observations about prison sanitation, food, healthcare and infrastructure, among other things.
“The ratio of toilets per inmate is humongous. For example, in Barracks 4A, there are four toilets for nearly 200-250 inmates and that too without water supply. There are no gates on the toilets,” the order noted.
It asked the government to ensure minimum one toilet, fitted with flush type latrine and a cubicle for bathing, for every batch of 10 prisoners.
“It has been mentioned that work is in progress (for construction of) 747 toilets and 689 bathrooms in various central jails…which is false,” it noted.
The HC had passed a similar order on March 14, 2014 after which it had directed district and sessions judges at seven divisional headquarters to carry out sudden inspections of prisons and file reports.
The latest judgment is based on these reports and finds Rajasthan’s prison system failing miserably on seven key parameters including sanitation, food, health, recreation, education, vocational activities, infrastructure and inmate welfare.