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Why don’t you arm yourself with tasers: Delhi HC on assault in Tihar

🔴 The Delhi High Court also said that the jail authorities' approach cannot be that this is the only way they know, and called for wider consultation on the issue of custodial violence and prison reforms.

Written by Sofi Ahsan | New Delhi |
Updated: December 16, 2021 7:41:30 am
Tihar jail violence, tihar jail prisoner fight, Delhi High Court, delhi govt, tihar jail security, tihar jail news, tihar jail inmate fight, tihar jail assault, Delhi news, delhi latest news, tihar jail, tihar jail fights, tihar jail prisonersTaking note of a submission that the majority of spas were being run without any licences, the court said there is absolutely no justification either on part of the Delhi Police or the corporations for not taking appropriate action. (File)

Stressing the need to “civilise” the prison system in Delhi, the Delhi High Court Wednesday questioned Tihar jail authorities for using excessive force against prisoners, and asked why the erring officials should not be criminally prosecuted.

“Why don’t you arm yourself with tasers or something like that, if you can’t control the situation? Why does it always go down to beating? Why should the power of the State manifest itself in brute force? What we are concerned with is that with the approach that you are taking, we are going to reach a stage where somebody someday is going to say ‘I can’t breathe’. We don’t want to go to that stage,” said the division bench of Justice Siddharth Mridul and Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani.

In response to the court’s question on what constitutes “excessive force”, the counsel representing the jail authorities submitted that minimum force was allowed to be used, but the same was not defined or explained in the rules.  He also submitted that the court can decide the force to be used and jail officials will follow. However, the court said it will decide if it has to, but then officials may not find it palatable. “We have given you a very long rope. We are asking you to heal yourself. Please consider using other measures of restraint… Whether handcuffs, taser, other devices to separate people… shields,” it said.

The court also said that the jail authorities’ approach cannot be that this is the only way they know, and called for wider consultation on the issue of custodial violence and prison reforms. It asked the Director General (Prisons) to remain present for its assistance on the issues on the next date of hearing.  “You have to come back with suggestions. This is no rocket system and not an isolated case that you have rioting, violence in jails. It happens all over the world… they must have a standard operating procedure, you have to use minimum force,” said the court.

The court was hearing a petition filed by a convict alleging that he was beaten by Tihar jail officials last year. On Wednesday, jail authorities informed the court that departmental action has been taken against an assistant superintendent and a warder as per the service rules.

However, the court asked whether the use of excessive force did not amount to an offence under IPC section 323. It observed that the convict was chased to a corner in a cell where lathis were used against him.

“What are the powers given to control a physically alarming situation? Where are those powers and what are the contours of those powers. If somebody employs excessive force, is it simply a breach of the service rules or more,” said the court, while questioning the limit to which force can be used when it is not defined in the rules.

Delhi’s Standing Counsel (Criminal) Sanjay Lao submitted that in that case, everyone would start registering FIRs when force is used. “It will open a pandora’s box,” Lao argued, adding that there are hardened criminals in the jail and the prison officials are often threatened by inmates.

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