‘Sorry state in Tihar, murder happening’: Supreme Court asks MHA to act fast on prison reforms

The bench seemed unhappy with MHA failing to file an action plan and report on steps taken on the suggestions given by Delhi Police chief.
Supreme Court
Supreme Court

New Delhi, Nov 10 : The Supreme Court on Wednesday expressed its dissatisfaction over the delay by Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in taking action on recommendations submitted by Delhi Police Commissioner Rakesh Asthana in a report on prison reforms, after it was found some Tihar jail officials were extending undue assistance to ex-Unitech promoters Sanjay Chandra and Ajay Chandra.

A bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and M.R. Shah told Additional Solicitor General K.M. Nataraj: “When will MHA take action? Need immediate reforms – jammers and body scanners – to ensure no unauthorised use of mobile phones takes place (on the Tihar jail premises).”

The bench seemed unhappy with MHA failing to file an action plan and report on steps taken on the suggestions given by Delhi Police chief.

Nataraj, appearing for Delhi Police, submitted before the bench that an FIR was registered on October 12, and there are a total 37 accused, which includes 32 jail officials, the Chandra family members, and two staff.

As he said that Tihar Jail does not fall under Delhi Police, the bench queried under whom the Tihar jail falls – the MHA or Delhi Police? A counsel in the matter informed the bench that Tihar jail is under Delhi government.

Justice Chandrachud told Nataraj that recommendations made by Delhi Police Commissioner are very important and the court wants the MHA to take steps to implement them.

At this juncture, Justice Shah, citing news reports, said murder has happened on Tihar jail premises.

“Sorry state of affairs in Tihar jail. Murder happened. You need to take action and not wait for something to happen in future,” he said. Nataraj replied that investigations into the matter are underway.

The bench further added that Tihar has become a den for criminals and told Nataraj that the concerned Secretary in MHA should file an action plan and a report on steps taken so far on the suggestions given by Asthana within three weeks.

Nataraj submitted Asthana’s report has been forwarded to the MHA and it is pending consideration before the ministry. At this juncture, the bench remarked, “Consideration means what? There are suggestions that some immediate reforms are necessary.”

Citing its October 6 order, the bench said it had directed the MHA to take necessary steps based on the suggestions made by Delhi Police chief on prison reforms and prison management.

It emphasised that necessary steps need to be taken immediately, and an action plan should be made and submitted to it, and this process should not be delayed any further.

Against the backdrop of its previous order, the bench reiterated that no steps have been proposed, despite multiple recommendations by Delhi Police chief. After hearing arguments, the top court posted the matter for further hearing after three weeks.

The bench also examined a report by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) on the Unitech’s ex-promoters and said that the agency should continue its investigation and file a status report within three weeks. It also sought a report from the Enforcement Directorate, which is probing the money laundering charges against Chandra brothers.

On October 6, after a stormy hearing, the Supreme Court had ordered immediate suspension and a full-fledged probe against Tihar Jail officials, who were identified by the Delhi Police Commissioner in a report for extending undue assistance to ex-Unitech promoters Sanjay Chandra and Ajay Chandra.

On August 26, the top court ordered shifting of Chandra brothers to jails in Mumbai following a report by the Enforcement Directorate claiming it has found a “secret underground office”, which was being operated by their father and Unitech founder Ramesh Chandra, and both his sons visited the office, when on parole or bail.

The agency had alleged that it was done in collusion with the Tihar Jail authorities.

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