‘To get an essential item to your jailed kin or even to meet them, prison guards want bribe’
Mustafa Plumber @plumbermushi, DNA
A 36-year-old woman, whose husband is lodged in the Kolhapur prison, has approached the Bombay high court, alleging gross corruption and illegal practices inside jails in providing essential supplies to prisoners.
What does the petition allege?
In her petition filed through advocate Rahul Thakhur, the Navi Mumbai resident has alleged that supplies like tooth paste, hair oil and soap among others are unavailable and when convicts call for them from their relatives, prison officials demand bribe to allow the items inside.
The petition also says there are no CCTV cameras put up near the gates where prison officials demand bribe, and even if they are put up, they aren’t working.
Has the woman experienced it first-hand?
The petition cites an example, when she had gone to the Kolhapur prison on August 16 last year with supplies, but the officials asked for Rs1,500 as bribe from her to ensure they reached her husband. As she was not able to pay, the supplies were confiscated. Later, when her husband asked the officials for the items, he was assaulted, she alleged, saying she herself saw it happen through the grills of the gate.
What does the plea seek?
Thakhur, through the petition, has prayed before HC to issue directions to the authorities to provide essential supplies to prisoners as per the prison manual and ensure there is no shortage. The petition also seeks that the prison authorities in Kolhapur be directed to ensure proper maintenance of CCTV cameras in prisoners’ areas and near the gates. HC has now given the state three weeks to file its reply.
Have others faced the same problem?
Several advocates and relatives of prisoners agreed with the petitioner, with the latter saying they have faced the same troubles in trying to send basic items to their kin lodged in. Advocate Farhan Shah said, “The jail guards demand money for every small thing. For example, if you have to meet your relative lodged inside, then around Rs500 will get spent by way of bribes at different levels for a meeting which will last for 15 to 20 minutes.”
What are the other allegations?
The petition mentions that letters sent to the HC and other statutory authorities by convicts are censored and complaints pertaining to custodial violence are never allowed to be sent to the statutory authorities in order to protect jail staff.
What are jail authorities saying?
Deputy inspector general of police Rajendra Dhamne said usually all the items, which are sanctioned by the inspector general, are available in the prison canteen. “I am not aware of the petition and hence cannot comment on the individual case. In case any complaint comes, we will look into it,” he added
Essential items should be given to prisoners for free’
Arun Ferreira, who was acquitted in all 11 cases slapped against him for alleged Naxal links, but not before spending four years and eight months in Nagpur prison, has written a book on prison life titled Colours of the Cage: A Prison Memoir. He spoke to dna’s Mustafa Plumber about his experience with regard to corruption and availability of essential supplies inside jails.
Is there always a shortage of essential supplies, or is it an artificial scarcity created by the authorities?
Firstly, supplies like slippers, soaps and hair oils among others should be made available to the prisoners for free. And secondly, it’s only the gap between demand and supply that leads to corruption. The prison manual’s provisions of supplies itself are insufficient — one soap a month is provided, which is to be used for bathing and washing clothes. Is it possible even in normal circumstances to survive on this much?
Are the essential supplies sold at MRP or higher prices?
It depends on the supply and the prison, some things are easily available in the canteen, thus they are sold at MRP, but some goods, like cigarettes, if they go out of stock and the incoming supply is less, then it can be sold at exorbitant rates.
Is it true that even for visiting a member lodged inside, relatives have to pay jail guards?
For an undertrial, a friend/relative can come to meet once a week, while for convicts, it is once a month. When more visits are sought, the question of greasing palms arises.
Does the system of complaint box work?
At times, yes. There are two boxes, one for the high court and the other for the DIG. Complaints put in the HC box are addressed often, but the DIG box is opened by officials against whom the complaints are made.
Published Date: Apr 04, 2015