Srinagar: The report of three-member committee constituted by the division bench of Delhi High Court to study the plight of prisoners at Tihar Jail in New Delhi has stated all the prisoners lodged there are “living under constant fear of getting killed at one or other pretext.”

The committee, which was constituted on November 23 last year, has painted a grim picture about the plight of prisoners. On November 21 last year, 18 prisoners including four Kashmiris were severely thrashed by the personnel of Tamil Nadu Special Police (TSP). The incident triggered massive resentment in the wake of grave injuries inflicted on the prisoners including Kashmiris – Shahid Yousuf son of Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahudin, Ahtesham Farooq of Sopore, Mushtaq Ahmed Lone of Bijbehara and Showkat Ahmed.

The report has been prepared by Harsh Prabhakar (Advocate Legal Aid), Reeteb Singh (Joint Registrar Rules) and Lorren Bamniyal (Registrar Appellate).

“The prisoners in the high risk ward, especially those in ward C and ward F are living in a state of fear. They apprehend that they might be killed at one or the other pretext,” reads the report.

“Even though the members of the committee extended all possible assurances to them, but the November 21 incident and the severity of the physical assault has shaken them,” the report states. 

The report reads that clause 61 of the Delhi Jail Manual provides for use of minimum force for controlling any incident of rioting and mandates that any officer of the prison shall use as little force and inflict as little injury to a person as may be consistent with restoring order.

“The (present) incident was not one of rioting. The handling of the incident by the Tamil Nadu Special Police (TSP) as well as by the Assistant Superintendent cannot be justified in any manner,” the report states. 

Prisoners of Ward F had returned to their cells immediately after the alarm was sounded and there was no reason for the TSP or the QRT to use the force, the report added.

The report quoted standing order number 2/17 which prescribes humane treatment for all  prisoners and respect to their inherent dignity and value as human beings, the report said: “Despite  such unequivocal statutory guidelines, an incident has been perpetrated where prisoners were beaten up with such severity that it has resulted in  harbouring a constant fear of being killed by the prison authorities.” 

The committee feels that the incident (thrashing of inmates) is a “gross violation of fundamental, human and other legal rights of prisoners who have been subjected to severe physical torture without any justifiable reason.”

The report said the committee was informed that during the routine search of the high risk ward on (November 21, 2017), which is done twice in a day, the prisoners had objected to a fresh direction for withdrawal of pillow covers from the prisoners. “The (Nov 21) incident was the result of some arguments between the prisoners and the search team which comprised the personnel of the TSP.”

The report states that the high risk ward of Jail number 1 has different cells. “The Committee expressed its desire to first meet Shahid Yousuf, whose vest was submitted to the court. Yousuf was found housed in the Cell C-9(1) and was injured,” report reads. “He stated that the search team came around  8:30 pm (November 21, 2017)  and carried  out  an intensive and vigorous search of their cell under the supervision  of  MuthuPandi, SI, TSP. After completing the search, the team locked the cell from outside and left.”

The report said that at around 9:15 pm, the TSP personnel, who had earlier come for checking, entered the ‘C’ ward in large numbers, started beating the inmates with 'fibre' as well as 'wooden' sticks or whatever else came in their hands.

“He (Yousuf) stated that he was hit on his head many times consequent whereto he started bleeding. He informed that he also sustained injuries on his back and left hand.  He complained of having pain in his left shoulder.”

According to the report, Yousuf clarified that the 'baniyan' (vest) which was given by him to his advocate was not worn by him at the time of “incident but was used by him to wipe blood from his body.”

It may be recalled that separatist leaders arrested and booked by National Investigation Agency (NIA) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) are also lodged in Tihar. The arrested separatists include Shabir Ahmed Shah, Ayaz Akbar, Shahidul Islam, Peer Saifullah, Farooq Ahmed Dar alias Bita Karatey, Muhammad Altaf Shah and Mehrajudin Kalwal. A Kashmiri businessman Zahoor Watali has also been lodged in Tihar.

(Abid Bashir-GK Xclusive)