A Delhi court while directing Tihar Jail authorities to ensure former JNU student Umar Khalid is allowed adequate time out of his jail cell, following allegations that he was kept in solitary confinement, observed that the reply filed by authorities on Khalid’s prison conditions was “bizarre”.
Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat made the observations while going through the reply filed by jail superintendent Avadeshwar Kant, who was summoned to explain Khalid’s allegations. Khalid claimed he was not allowed outside his jail cell and on one occasion, he was allowed outside for 10 minutes.
Furthermore, the court also extended Khalid and JNU student Sharjeel Imam’s judicial custody till November 20. Imam and Khalid’s lawyers told the court that the application for extension of judicial custody had identical portions lifted from previous police custody applications, carrying even “same spelling mistakes”. They submitted that police was moving applications “without any new grounds or application of their mind”.
In their three-page reply, Tihar authorities stated Khalid had been provided facility for legal interviews, phone call with his parents, books from the jail library and outside, clothes, headphones to be used during legal interview, and daily newspapers.
However, one reply which caught the court’s attention read, “The cell where the inmate is being kept is located at such a place from where more than half of the ward movement is visible.”
ASJ Rawat told Kant, “…I am quite amazed by para number 6. What is the purpose of this?… It’s a very strange and bizarre thing to say.” Kant replied, “From inside, he (Khalid) can also see others so that he doesn’t get bored. He can see others walking around.”
Khalid’s lawyer Trideep Pais also told the court, “Is he a zoo animal on display? That others can see him and he can see others when he is locked up? Why this discrimination?”
“He (jail superintendent) has literally kept the man imprisoned for 30 hours. What is the period for which he was kept inside his cell, has he clarified that?”
Kant said Khalid was allowed to leave his cell from sunrise till 12 pm and then from 3 pm till sunset.
When the court asked Khalid if this was true, he said, “After I brought it to the court’s notice, things have got better. I have been allowed outside. The jail superintendent is right that he came to meet me himself (and) took me out… before that, there were long periods where I was not allowed outside my cell. It was left to the discretion of the particular person on duty. I would negotiate for hours and I (the cell) would be open for half-an-hour.”
The court, while agreeing that jail authorities may have done this keeping in mind his safety and security, asked Kant about the order which restricted Khalid inside his jail cell. Kant said it was an internal order by an additional superintendent to ensure Khalid’s safety.
During the hearing, Imam’s lawyer Surabhi Dhar also submitted that jail authorities were not responding to her requests for legal interviews in a timely manner, following which the court asked her to file an application.
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