The Delhi High court asked the Delhi government to contact the Mumbai Central Jail authorities and get a reply on why a prisoner, who has been incarcerated there, was not provided books required for a course on homeopathy.
Ehtesham Qutubuddin Siddiqui, an accused in the 2006 Mumbai train blasts, had sent a letter in 2012 to Delhi High Court, after the Central Information Commission (CIC) had denied his request to be given 45 books published by the Central Council for Research in Homeopathy (CCRH) under the RTI Act.
The court had converted the letter to a PIL, and issued notice to the Delhi prison authorities and the Central government on the issue of whether rights under the RTI Act were available to the prisoner, and whether published books could be brought under the RTI Act.
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The CCRH and the CIC however said that the books could not be provided under RTI as they were “priced publications” which could only be given at a cost, and not for free under the RTI Act.
Advocate Rajdeepa Behura, who was appearing on behalf of the Delhi government, told the court that the Tihar Jail had a “welfare programme” under which it could have paid the fee under the RTI Act or purchased the books.
However, the Delhi government said that Delhi authorities did not have any jurisdiction as the prisoner was lodged at the Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai.
Advocate Meenakshi Midha, who had appeared as amicus curiae in the case, also argued that the jail authorities and the government should have purchased the books for the prisoner, or given e-books or “soft copies” of the books to Siddiqui, in case the purchase of the hard copies of the books was too expensive. “They should get CCRH to provide copies, it’s a government publication,” argued Midha.
“Ordinarily why shouldn’t an inmate be given access to books?” asked the court of Justice Rajiv Shakdher, who has now issued notice to the CCRH seeking their reply on why the books could not be provided. The court also asked advocate Behura to file a detailed affidavit by August on the reasons given by the Mumbai Central Jail authorities for not supplying the books to Siddiqui.