Authorities claimed the need for a court order when accused languishing in jail sought warm clothes.
Expressing displeasure with prison authorities, after several accused in a case related to the February riots in north-east Delhi said they were not being given even basic things like warm clothing, a Delhi court on Tuesday warned that the judge would go and inspect the situation physically if things do not improve.
The court directed Director General (DG) of Delhi Prisons to look into the grievances of all the 15 accused, booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in the case, and order that somebody who can take a call inspect the situation at Mandoli and Tihar prisons.
It asked the authorities to apprise the court of the status on November 23.
“This has to end. DG (Prisons) is directed to take stalk of the situation, to order someone, who can take a call, to look into the grievances. If things do not improve, I would go for a physical inspection myself. And the lawyers may accompany me too,” Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat said.
During the hearing held through video conferencing, seven out of the 15 accused said they have not been given warm clothes, though it is permitted under the prison rules, and the prison authorities said they need court order for it.
Advocate Mehmood Pracha, appearing for Gulfisha Khatoon, said an application for supply of winter clothes had to be filed since the jail authorities said they won’t permit it unless there was court’s direction to this.
When the court allowed the application, advocate Adit Pujari, appearing for JNU students Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal, requested the order to be extended for all the accused as everyone was facing the same problem.
The counsel of former Congress Councillor Ishrat Jahan, one of the accused, said she had asked to be allowed a pair of slippers from her home as those supplied by the jail authorities were slippery and she was severely injured due to it, but they denied her that too.
When her parents went to jail yesterday with warm clothes for her the jail authorities did not permit it, Ms. Jahan’s lawyer said.
While addressing the court directly, Jahan sought interim bail for two months, saying she was concerned as several inmates at Mandoli jail have developed COVID-19 symptoms.
Expressing dissatisfaction, the judge said, “Why do the accused have to approach the court every time for such basic things? This is too much. This is not done. Why is everyone complaining (about the facilities in jail).”
Another accused Athar Khan claimed that while two of the inmates have been hospitalised, few have also been isolated after they showed symptoms of COVID-19.
“Two of the inmates have been admitted to the hospital and a few have also been isolated. There are no health facilities available and hence we are not being allowed to step out of our barracks,” Khan said.
Jamia Millia Islamia student Asif Iqbal Tanha alleged he was facing discrimination from the jail authorities and was not allowed to meet his family members for the past few months.
“I have not been allowed to meet my family for the last two and half months even though others are being allowed. The jail authorities are not approving their application for a meeting. When I complain, the jail authorities say that this is not a place for activism,” Tanha alleged.
Advocate Sowjhanya Shankaran, appearing for Tanha, said the jail officials even denied to give him a copy of the order by which his bail was rejected.
“I had sent the order copy to jail for Tanha. The jail Superintendent refused to give it to him. It would be better if he is given access to the court’s orders and the chargesheet. I am given 30 minutes through video conferencing during which we discuss our matter by sharing a screen. Out of the over 17,000 pages, I have been able to share and discuss only 30 pages with him till date,” Ms. Shankaran said.
Another accused Meeran Haider said he was down with fever due to the cold without winter clothes, but he has been unable to put forward his grievances to the prison authorities.
Khatoon claimed that she had written letters addressed to the higher authorities two months back, regarding her alleged harassment by jail staff, but they have not been forwarded to the concerned persons.
Jamia Coordination Committee members Safoora Zargar, Shafa-Ur-Rehman, suspended AAP Councillor Tahir Hussain, activist Khalid Saifi, Shadab Ahmed, Tasleem Ahmed, Salim Malik and Mohd Salim Khan have also been chargesheeted in the case, for allegedly being part of a larger conspiracy in the riots.
JNU student Sharjeel Imam and former JNU student leader Umar Khalid have also been arrested under the anti-terror law in the case but not chargesheeted yet.
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.