Updated: January 28, 2022 8:53:50 am
The Supreme Court Thursday directed a joint meeting of a secretary-level official of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Director General (Prisons) of Tihar jail and chief secretary of Delhi to take concrete decisions towards implementing the recommendations made in a report by Delhi Police Commissioner Rakesh Asthana for enhancing security at Tihar jail.
A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and M R Shah said the meeting should be held within a week and that a comprehensive affidavit indicating the manner in which implementation of the recommendations would be carried out, and the timelines stipulated and steps to be taken, be filed before it.
The direction for the joint meeting came after the court failed to get satisfactory answers to its query as to what changes had been made and who exercises control over Tihar jail.
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Noting that the Centre and Delhi government were “passing the buck”, the court underlined the need for “effective coordination and expeditious decision-making”. The bench was also surprised to find that the Delhi government counsel was not present at the hearing.
Conveying its displeasure, Justice Chandrachud said, “Each one is saying it is not our baby. What on earth is happening? Whether it is the Delhi government or Delhi Police or the central government, there is no difference. You have to implement it. The law is very, very clear.”
Hearing a matter in which it had ordered shifting of real estate firm Unitech Ltd’s promoters Sanjay and Ajay Chandra, lodged in Tihar jail, to Arthur Road jail and Taloja Central jail following a report by the Enforcement Directorate which said the duo was having a free run in Tihar and were even flouting the jail manual in connivance with officials, the court had last year asked Asthana to personally investigate the same and submit a report.
Subsequently, Asthana submitted his report of September 29, 2021, in which he also made suggestions on what can be done to improve jail security.
On the previous date of hearing, the court asked the Home Ministry to appraise it about the follow-up action on recommendations made by the Asthana.
On Thursday, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Madhavi Diwan told the bench that a meeting was held by the Joint Secretary, Union Territories, on December 3 to consider the recommendations and it was attended by representative of the Union Home Ministry, DG (Prisons), Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime) of Delhi Police and the Delhi government’s Principal Secretary, Home. The proposals were also forwarded to the Delhi chief secretary for appropriate action, she said.
The DG (Prison) had conveyed to the Home Ministry about the action to be taken, the ASG said.
Diwan pointed out that the recommendations were a reiteration of the guidelines in the Model Prison Manual drawn up by the Home Ministry in 2016 and advisories issued to states from time to time. So far only 12 states had implemented it despite reminders, she said.
The bench however said all of it was paperwork and wanted to know what had been done on the ground in Tihar.
Justice Chandrachud pointed out that one of the recommendations in the CP’s report was to have towers to prevent phone calls from inside the jail and sought to know what had been done about it.
Diwan responded that the government had made a budgetary allocation of Rs 950 crore. She added that the Delhi Police would be better placed to answer the query.
ASG K M Nataraj appearing for the Delhi Police said though the DG (Prisons) is a Delhi Police official sent on deputation, the administrative control actually vests with the Delhi government.
The bench then went on to direct the joint meeting saying “in this backdrop, we are of the view that the passing of buck between the authorities at the Centre namely MHA, at the level of the DG (Prisons) and the Delhi government must be dealt with by effective coordination and expeditious decision-making. The report of the CP will gather dust unless effective steps are taken to implement it”.
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