HC forms panel for enhancing prison security

NEW DELHI
5 Nov 2017

Proper functioning of CCTV cameras in Tihar jail, which is overcrowded with prisoners by over 100 per cent, is a "non-compromisable imperative", the Delhi High Court has said while setting up a high-level committee to suggest measures for enhancing security of three jails here. The court said it was aware that Tihar jail was under the Delhi government's Home Department but to ensure that the exercise was entirely objective and impartial, the three- member panel should not have representatives of the Delhi government. The committee should get the active cooperation of the Tihar jail administration and the Delhi government, it said.
A bench of justices S Muralidhar and I S Mehta directed the secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs to constitute within 10 days the committee which would comprise a retired district judge of Delhi as the chairperson, a senior official of the National Informatics Centre and a senior official of Delhi Police, not below the rank of a deputy commissioner of police. The court's directions came on a petition alleging that 47 inmates in Tihar jail were mercilessly beaten up by security personnel inside the prison and that their human rights were violated by the jail authorities. It directed the panel to submit a report within two months and listed the matter on November 30.
The bench perused the inquiry report of the superintendent of Tihar jail which said only 19 out of 83 CCTV cameras in jail number 3 were functional for a period of 10 days and that at any given point in time, at least 10 per cent of these CCTV cameras are not functional. Standing counsel Rajiv Mehra, appearing for the Delhi government and Tihar jail, informed the court these 83 CCTV cameras were only for jail no. 3 whereas there were over 500 CCTV cameras at various locations in the entire Tihar jail.
"Tihar jail is one of the largest jails in the country with an inmate population of over 14,500. It is sought to be projected as a 'model jail'. Considering that the capacity of the jail is around 6000, it is plainly overcrowded by over 100 per cent. "It is undoubtedly a high security zone. It should be needless to emphasise that the proper functioning of CCTV cameras in Tihar jail complex, on a continuous basis, is an non-compromisable imperative," the judges said. The court said it was unable to appreciate as to how for over 10 days, only 19 out of 83 CCTV cameras installed in jail no. 3 were operational without immediate corrective action being taken.
"A CCTV camera that has gone out of order should have been rectified in the shortest possible time, at the highest within a few hours. It is surprising that the inquiry report mentions the above fact but does not concern itself with the obvious delay in getting the CCTV cameras rectified," it said.The court asked the committee to examine the functioning of CCTV cameras in the Tihar jail complex, as well as the Rohini and Mandoli jails.
The panel was also directed to formulate a protocol for disaster management and recovery in the event of a crisis. It was asked to suggest measures tested by pilot runs or mock drills. The bench said that the panel's emphasis would be placed in having top quality security for the Tihar jail complex comparable with the best international practices followed in high-security prisons. "The high-level committee will give specific suggestions on preserving the CCTV footages and procuring and maintaining state-of-the-art top quality servers and IT infrastructure required for the purpose. The composition of the technical back up team, to be an integral part of the Tihar Jail administration, should also be indicated by the HLC," it said.
It also asked the secretary of Ministry of Home Affairs to file a compliance report regarding the directions issued in the order. The matter had reached the high court when the advocate Mehmood Pracha, appearing for undertrial Jamal who was lodged in Tihar jail number 3 and was facing trial in 11 cases, claimed that his client was not being produced in the lower court despite a direction.(PTI)