The Supreme Court Wednesday said it is a “sorry state of affairs” in Tihar Jail which has become a den of criminals and murders are happening there while directing the Home Ministry to take immediate steps on prison reforms and enhance management. The apex court also expressed annoyance over the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) not filing an action plan and report on steps taken on the suggestions given by Delhi Commissioner of Police Rakesh Asthana.
The top court was informed by Delhi Police that it has registered an FIR under various sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act and IPC against 37 persons with regard to collusion with realty firm Unitech’s imprisoned ex-promoters Sanjay and Ajay Chandra.
The Enforcement Directorate had made a startling revelation recently that it had unearthed a “secret underground office” here which was being operated by erstwhile Unitech founder Ramesh Chandra and visited by his sons Sanjay and Ajay when on parole or bail. Both Sanjay and Ajay who are in jail since August 2017 are accused of allegedly siphoning home buyers’ money.
A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and M R Shah said Asthana’s report has recommended the installation of CCTV cameras, mobile jammers, body scanners, and other security measures in Tihar Jail but there is no report before it on the compliance of the October 6 order by MHA.
“It is a sorry state of affairs in Tihar Jail. We have read in newspapers two to three days back that murder is happening in the jail. It has become a den for criminals. The concerned secretary in MHA should file an action plan and a report on steps taken so far on the suggestions given by Delhi Commissioner of Police Rakesh Asthana within three weeks,” the bench said.
“Take immediate and prompt steps and file a report. Neither has any action plan been submitted nor any status report has been filed by the MHA on the steps taken so far,” it added.
At the outset, Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj, appearing for Delhi Police, informed the top court that it has registered FIR under various Sections of Prevention of Corruption Act and Indian Penal Code which include 32 jail officials, the Chandras as well as one associate and two of their staff for collusion and carrying out unauthorised activities from the prison.
He said the investigation was still underway and on the next date of hearing they will file a report in this regard.
Nataraj said that Asthana’s report has been forwarded to the MHA as directed by the court and it is pending consideration before the ministry.
The bench said, “Consideration means what? There are suggestions that some immediate reforms are necessary for the report. There needs to be body scanners and jammers to ensure that there is no unauthorized use of mobile phones. You should not wait for something to happen in the future”. The bench said that it would also seek a report from the Delhi government on the suspension of jail officials who have been booked for collusion.
The top court also perused a report of Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) report on the affairs of Unitech and the ex-promoters and said that the agency should continue its investigation and file a status report within three weeks.
Besides, it sought a report from the Enforcement Directorate which is probing the money laundering charges against the Chandra brothers.
On October 6, the top court had directed suspension of Tihar Jail officials, registration of the case against them, and full-fledged probe into their collusion with Chandra brothers, based on Asthana’s report.
It had directed registration of cases against the Tihar Jail officials and other unknown persons under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act and IPC against those involved in the collision as per the report.
It had also directed suspension of Tihar Jail officials, pending proceedings against whom cases will be lodged as per the report, following ED’s disclosure that the Chandra brothers were conducting business from prison.
The top court had further directed the MHA to comply with Asthana’s suggestions in the report on enhancing prison management.
On August 26, the apex court had directed that the Chandra brothers be shifted from Tihar Jail in the national capital to Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail and Taloja prison in Maharashtra after the ED had said that they were conducting business from the premises in connivance with the staff.
The top court, which had then perused two status reports of the ED, said that the Tihar Jail Superintendent and other staff are “absolutely shameless” for conniving with the Chandra brothers to flout the court orders and undermine its jurisdiction.
Pursuant to the direction of the top court, the Chandra brothers were shifted to jails in Mumbai. It had directed the Delhi Police Commissioner to personally hold inquiry forthwith about the conduct of the Tihar Jail staff with regard to the Chandras and submit the report to the court within four weeks.
ED and SFIO, Economic Offence Wing of Delhi Police are also conducting an investigation into the affairs of the Unitech Group and business transactions of erstwhile promoters of the real estate company.