Inmates have a right to know services

Published on May 29, 2015 00:49:49 AM

Every inmate is free to meet any official to complain or drop complaint in Superintendent Petition Box available at every ward, says the writer Madabhushi Sridhar

A prisoner has a right to know the diet, quantum, quality, price, and mechanism to respond to complaints. I have ordered the Delhi jail authorities to inform and explain on complaints.

Prisoner Sehjad filed a long RTI request for details of food provided, from morning to evening to prisoners at Tihar and Rohini Jail in Delhi. From milk supply to health needs, difference in rates between priced wet canteen and free langers in wards, he sought the information. His request included allegations of black market and about redressal mechanism.

The PIO (PHQ) sent copies of the RTI to all PIOs in two jails. They supplied details of quantum and quality of diet. The superintendent has informed that officials visit in wards and interaction with inmates are being followed by the DJM, the medical diet is being decided by the diet committee. Wet canteen of their jail was not given on contract but managed by authority. There are no brokers to obtain smart card which is being given after proper inspection and registration.

To replace the damaged smart cart, Rs 50 is charged and prices are fixed by the competent authority at prison headquarters. Other thing is that 300ml of milk is given to prisoner. As HIV+ is non-communicable disease, the prisoners are not separated from those with HIV+. If anybody is suffering from communicable diseases, they will be provided separate accommodation. Every inmate is free to meet any official to complain or drop complaint in Superintendent Petition Box available at every ward.

The prices of goods are updated as per market rates from time to time and rates are fixed by Jail Welfare Canteen Committee and updated according to market changes. Raw material is purchased separately for Wet Canteen and Langer. NGOs are always welcomed to provide any type of items or help. Daily diet sheet includes, bread, Atta, biscuit, dal, condiments, salt, mustard oil, vegetables, rice, tea milk, tea leaf, sugar, onion, soya bean and bread potatoes. Officers also gave the quantum and standard weight of the things given to convicts of simple or rigorous imprisonment and children.

All the jails have given their diet sheets and diet charts along with details of food items. They have presented the written submissions on May 11, 2015 stating that the RTI application was transferred to all the PIOs of Central Jail, Tihar for supplying information to the appellant and they in turn sent the replies directly to the appellant.

Prisoner questioned the system of diet supply and introduction of wet canteens. His questions reflect the malfunctioning of diet supply mechanism in the prison. Indirectly, he has made serious allegations that wet canteens in jails are being promoted where the prisoners have to purchase through smart cards given to prisoners, while diluting quality of food generally supplied free of cost, with malicious intention to secure profits to wet canteens.

I have directed the authorities to furnish further information about quantum of milk distributed every day in all jails. If non-volunteers do not get their quota of milk, who will be responsible for deficiency in distribution of milk in central jail number 5 in Tihar, whether officers address prisoners to know their problems, how many times Directing Officer visited Prison Wards, water scarcity in Jail 5, what action taken against boozing wardens, availability of services of Supreme Court lawyer to prisoners, why the prices are not reduced when market is selling at lower price than prescribed rate and also about the absence of petition box in the jail. When dozen bananas cost Rs 10 in market, why Rs 25 is collected in Jail?.

Officers need to answer why demand at Wet Canteen is being increased and quality and taste at Langers is reduced? Why flower of Gobbies are used in Wet Canteen and its waste twigs in free service Langers? Who is responsible for these deliberate acts meant for forcing the prisoners to use smart card to purchase in wet canteen, to increase profit of wet canteen?

The Commission directed the respondent authorities to consider the above points as the complaints and furnish action taken report within one month. They have also been asked to place on internet and on notice board under voluntary disclosure provisions, the diet chart, standards of food for inmates suffering simple and rigorous imprisonment and children, besides medical services, redressal grievances available at respective prisons.