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Friday, December 03, 2021

Explained: What is the ‘anda cell’, to which jailed activist Gautam Navlakha has been moved

Gautam Navlakha's partner has claimed that confinement in the anda cell is adversely affecting his health

Written by Jayprakash S Naidu , Edited by Explained Desk | Mumbai |
Updated: October 27, 2021 6:43:17 pm
Gautam Navlakha's lawyer has said the anda cell is "akin to solitary confinement".

After activist Gautam Navlakha, arrested in the Elgaar Parishad case, was shifted to the high-security anda cell of Navi Mumbai’s Taloja jail earlier this month, his partner has claimed the move is adversely affecting his health. The 70-year-old’s lawyer has said the anda cell is “akin to solitary confinement”.

What is the anda cell, what purpose does it serve and how did it come into existence? The Indian Express explains.

What is an anda cell?

An anda (egg) cell is a high-security prison cell, so called because of its oblong shape. Only central prisons across India have anda cells, built by the Public Works Department (PWD). The cells are specially designed to secure high-risk prisoners, with the oblong shape providing a better view while monitoring and patrolling.

There are two security cordons, inner and outer. Each cell opens inward into an open space, where inmates are allowed out in turns during specific hours. More prison officers and staff are posted in anda cells than in ordinary barracks. Every staff member entering or exiting has to sign a register, where their details are noted. The size of the cell in different prisons depends on the number of inmates kept there.

Does anda cell mean solitary confinement?

A former additional director general of prisons in Maharashtra told The Indian Express that anda cell cannot be called solitary confinement, but it is the most isolated cell in any central prison.

Isolation cells have bigger courtyards and are open from above, providing enough sunlight. The anda cells usually have two wings and are covered with iron rods from above. The prisoner cannot move from one wing to the other.

How is the anda cell different from barracks?

In an anda cell, a toilet and bathroom facility is attached. Inmates cannot interact with other prisoners, visit the library or canteen or have access to the main courtyard, which is large and open from above. Food and books are provided in the cell.

“However, you cannot equate it with solitary confinement as you are allowed to move in the smaller courtyard within the wing and allowed to have conversation and food with the fellow inmate in the anda cell, housed in your adjacent room,” said an IPS officer who has served in a central prison in the state.

Who can be kept in anda cell, who has the power to send prisoners there?

The anda cell is specially made for terrorists, naxalites, gangsters or members of organised crime syndicates. Both undertrials and convicts can be kept here.

An IPS officer who has served in the prisons department said, “The idea of having a high-security cell came about decades back, especially for naxals and gangsters, as they could brainwash other prisoners to join them.”

The Superintendent of the particular prison is vested with the powers to decide who must be shifted from barracks to the anda cell or the isolation cell

Meeran Chadha Borwankar, former additional DG, Prisons, Maharashtra, who retired as DG, Bureau of Police Research & Development (BPRD), told The Indian Express, “Sometimes, inmates who we think are at risk of lynching/harassment from other inmates are kept here. This concept originated from Maharashtra after the murder of General Vaidya. The first such cell was built at Nashik Road and the second at Pune Prison. Officials from many states have visited them and replicated them in their prisons.”

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Two Sikh militants, accused of the assassination of former Army chief General AS Vaidya in 1986 in Pune, are said to be the first prisoners kept in the anda cell at the Yerawada jail in the 1990s. The two were hanged.

Some prisoners who have been kept in anda cell

Around 10 days ago, Navlakha was shifted to the anda cell in Taloja jail in Navi Mumbai. In the past, actor Sanjay Dutt has been kept in the anda cell at Arthur Road jail and terrorist Ajmal Kasab was kept in Yerwada jail’s anda cell.

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