A UK court hearing the Vijay Mallya extradition case sought videos Tuesday of the cell at Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail where Indian authorities plan to lodge the fugitive businessman. Both the defence and prosecution presented clarifications on Barrack 12 of the jail, where Mallya will be held, if he can be brought back.
Barracks and prisoners
Accused persons awaiting trial, undertrials, and convicts are lodged in cells that are part of separate enclosed spaces inside prisons. In many countries, these prison spaces are called compartments; in India, they are called barracks, and are identified by a number. Confining prisoners to a barrack is intended to ensure they are unable to move around freely, congregate in large numbers, form unions, or create law and order situations.
Each barrack functions as a single unit within the prison, and could be a single- or a multiple-storey structure. They have toilets, washing areas, and sleeping facilities. Fans hang from the ceiling at a height that is beyond the reach of prisoners, and cannot be used to commit suicide. Each barrack has a courtyard, which prisoners of that barrack can access during day time.
While each cell in a barrack can normally house 10-15 inmates, specialised barracks like Barrack 12 at Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail have cells that house only a single individual. High-profile or especially dangerous prisoners — mostly those facing terror charges — are kept in specialised barracks such as the Anda Cell in Pune’s Yerwada and Mumbai’s Arthur Road jails. Ajmal Kasab, the only 26/11 terrorist to be captured alive, was lodged in a bombproof, bulletproof Anda cell at Arthur Road Jail. Kasab’s cell is now occupied by Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal, one of the alleged handlers of the 26/11 attackers.
Barrack 12 at Arthur Road
This barrack houses high-profile prisoners who are perceived to be facing a threat or who could pose a threat to others, or cause law and order situations inside the jail. It’s a ground-plus-one structure with eight cells on each floor. Each cell has an attached toilet, a washing area and a courtyard. While prison barracks ordinarily have Indian-style toilets, some cells in Barrack 12 have western-style commodes. Inmates are provided with a mattress, a pillow and a bedsheet, and a melamine glass, plate and two bowls in which to have meals and water. Melamine utensils are preferred because prisoners can’t use them to attack other prisoners or jail staff, or to inflict injuries on themselves. The cells are covered by CCTV cameras, and guards posted inside and outside the barrack watch over inmates round the clock.
Meals are served four times a day in an earmarked area of the barrack where inmates are asked to gather. The food is prepared in accordance with nutrition requirements fixed by the jail food committee. Breakfast is provided between 6 am and 7 am, lunch around noon, afternoon tea at 4.30 pm, and dinner at 7 pm. The union Home Ministry’s Model Prison Manual prescribes a calorie intake of between 2,320 and 2,730 kcal/day for male prisoners, and between 1,900 and 2,830 kcal/day for female prisoners.
Question of darkness
In response to Vijay Mallya’s assertion that Barrack 12 lacks natural light or ventilation, prison officials claim that each cell has a window, and cross-ventilation is provided by bars on the opposite wall. Barrack 12 also has a courtyard, which provides “direct sunlight” to inmates, they say.
Among Barrack 12’s high-profile prisoners is the former television executive Peter Mukerjea, who is being tried for the murder of his stepdaughter Sheena Bora, and Vipul Ambani, president (finance) of Nirav Modi’s Firestar International, who is in judicial custody for his role in the alleged Rs 13,578 crore fraud in Punjab National Bank. NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal and his nephew Samir Bhujbal are former inmates of Barrack 12, as is Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt, who was lodged there while undergoing his sentence in the 1993 Bombay bomb blasts case. Before being moved to the Anda cell, Kasab, too, was briefly lodged in Barrack 12.