25 injured in violence by foreign inmates in Tihar jail, authorities inform HC

New Delhi, Jun 29 (PTI) Several foreign inmates turned violent in Tihar Jail a few days ago injuring 25 people, including 10 staff who tried to control them, prison authorities told the Delhi High Court on Monday.

The authorities filed a status report in response to the allegations made by a woman member of the Pinjra Tod group, who was arrested in a case related to the communal violence in north-east Delhi earlier this year.

She claimed there was a 'large scale violence' inside Tihar Jail here on June 16 and inmates were prohibited from getting in touch with anyone, including via video conferencing, outside the prison.

The Tihar jail superintendent filed the report in the court of Justice C Hari Shankar before whom the lawyer, appearing for Pinjra Tod (Break the Cage) group member Natasha Narwal, had alleged that there was a violence and some inmates' limbs were allegedly broken by the jail staff.

The status report, which accepted that “an untoward incident” happened at Central Jail no. 6, Tihar, said: “On June 16 morning again 15-20 foreign inmates created problem in the jail. They forced their way out of the ward and also damaged the locks of gates of Ward No. 9 and Chakkar.

'Sensing trouble and having no other alternative, Alarm was sounded in the jail at around 08:30 am, reinforcements (were) called and these inmates were physically controlled by minimum use of force.” It added that in the process, 15 inmates and 10 jail staff have suffered minor injuries.

They have been given treatment in the jail dispensary by the doctors and punishment will be given to the defaulting inmates as per the prison rules, said the report, filed through Delhi government standing counsel (criminal) Rahul Mehra and advocate Chaitanya Gosain.

It said that on June 15, some of the foreign inmates came to the Deodhi of the jail in the morning on some pretext and refused to leave till late evening, despite repeated counselling/ persuasion by the jail officers. Since the jail has to be locked up in the evening, they had to be physically removed to different cells in the jail by the jail staff where they were locked, it said.

The report said the foreign prisoners of Central Jail no. 6 in Tihar have been agitating for some time demanding that they should also be considered for grant of interim bail and jail authorities have been counselling and briefing them that their cases are not falling under the prescribed criteria for the relief.

“However, they have also been told that even if their cases do not fall in the criteria, they are free to move application independently in the courts for either interim bail or regular bail through DSLSA lawyers or private lawyers. These inmates repeatedly resorted to agitation / protest and did not seem amenable to reason,” it said.

It added that to curb down the movement of inmates and their gathering, the telephone facility of the prisoners was temporarily restricted for a few days between June 16 to 23, though it was allowed wherever found urgent.

Regarding Narwal’s allegation of not allowing inmates from getting in touch with persons outside jail through video conferencing, the jail authorities said her counsel has conducted video conferencing successfully with her on June 24 morning and the next session will be conducted on Monday (June 29) evening.

“The counsel of women prisoners shall be allowed video conferencing with their clients in central jail no. 6, Tihar, now onwards, on the basis of written requests of the counsel for prisoners to the jail superintendent on her official email,” the report said.

Regarding the plea of Narwal, a Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student, seeking to provide books and reading material to complete her M.Phil, the jail superintendent said 13 books and 22 registers have been given to her.

It also said she has availed the facility of calling her family members on telephone 8 times so far.

During the Monday’s hearing, advocate Adit S Pujari, representing Narwal, said since multiple FIRs are lodged against her, he shall be granted either more time or more number of legal interviews with her per week. He sought for 30 minutes time twice a week for legal interviews.

As per the jail manual, an undertrial is allowed 10 minutes of legal interview with his/ her counsel twice a week.

However, as Mehra was busy in another court hearing, the matter was passed over and later it was posted for hearing on Tuesday.

Legal interviews of inmates with their lawyers were suspended in Delhi prisons in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. Pinjra Tod was founded in 2015 with an aim to make hostels and paying guest accommodations less restrictive for women students.

Narwal, currently lodged in Tihar jail along with another JNU student and member of the group, Devangana Kalitha, were arrested by Delhi Police on May 23 in connection with a protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in north-east Delhi's Jafrabad area in February.

On May 24, they were granted bail by the trial court in the case, but moments later the Delhi Police crime branch had moved an application seeking to interrogate them and formally arrest them in a separate case.

Narwal was also arrested in a third case related to her role in north-east Delhi violence matter.

Communal clashes had broken out in northeast Delhi on February 24 after violence between citizenship law supporters and protesters spiralled out of control leaving at least 53 people dead and around 200 injured. PTI SKV HMP SA