Dealing with the Plea filed by Natasha Narwal and others seeking certain reliefs, facilities, and flagging further issues in Tihar, the Delhi High Court on Monday (May 3) issued a slew of directions to the Delhi Government and also sought its response on several issues.
The Bench of Justice Prathiba M. Singh dealt with a slew of issues and on most of them, issued direction to the ASC to obtain directions from the Delhi Government.
The first issue highlighted by the Counsel for the Petitioners was in respect of telephonic calling facilities for prisoners who are being quarantined, due to them having symptoms of COVID-19 or due to having been tested positive for COVID-19.
The Counsel submitted that the inmates do not have any tele calling facilities, and they are able to use the telephone to call only once in a week, which was not sufficient, considering the fact that the relatives of these prisoners would be concerned about their medical condition.
In response to this issue, ASC appearing for the GNCTD, submitted that a separate mobile number has now been obtained in order to enable such prisoners to be able to make telephone calls, and a specific dedicated staff has been nominated to visit the COVID-19 ward to facilitate the same, and enable the said prisoners to speak with their family.
He further submitted that the Office of Superintendent of Jail is in fact intimating the relatives of the inmates as to their medical condition on a daily basis.
Further, the Court directed him to obtain instructions as to: -
- What is the frequency of such visits being made by the said dedicated staff?
- The frequency of such telephone calls that have been permitted to be made by the inmates, who are currently quarantined due to Covid-19 symptoms and those who are quarantined due to having tested positive and are undergoing treatment.
Vaccination of inmates
Petitioners' Counsel also raised an issue concerning the vaccination of the inmates in the prison, in order to prevent an outbreak, as the jail is overcrowded.
In response to this, ASC submitted that, at this stage, only 12 prisoners/inmates who are over the age of 45 years have been vaccinated.
Considering that there are greater chances of spreading of the COVID-19 infection, within the enclosed premises of the prison, the Court directed the ASC to take instructions as to the vaccination policy, that is being proposed for vaccinating the inmates in the Central Jail-6, Tihar.
The Court asked the ASC to confirm if physical mulaqats of inmates with their family members has been started.
Monthly charges for calling facilities
It was prayed that, as was done in May/June 2020, the monthly calling charges amounting to Rs. 150 to Rs. 300, imposed upon the prisoners, be waived due to the prevalent situation.
To this, the ASC, submitted that a decision qua the same had to be taken by the Prison HQs, and so, the Court directed that a decision be taken and placed on record before the next date.
Directions sought by under-trial prisoners of Tihar Jail
The Court directed that in view of the surge in COVID cases, since Physical mulaqat isn't possible, e-mulaquats should commence, and all the facilities qua the same shall be provided to all the inmates in Central Jail-6, Tihar.
The Court directed the Jail Superintendent, Central Jail No.6, Tihar, to co-ordinate with the concerned Director at the NIC, who is providing the internet connection to Tihar Jail, in order to seek assistance: -
- As to whether limited access to only a certain permissible number of portals can be given in the computer center at the jail or not, and
- Whether the system can be installed in such a manner that there is no access to other non-permissible internet portals.
Insofar as the issue concerning legal aid was concerned, it was informed to the Court that the legal aid room was available, and the impaneled counsels of the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA) visit the said jail and utilize these computers between 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM five days a week.
To this, the Court directed that since the requirement of the computers would be based on the quantum of work that the DSLSA panel lawyers would be undertaking in the said room, let the Secretary, DSLSA, place a report on record, after assessing as to how many computers and printers would be required in the said legal aid room.
Case title - Natasha Narwal & Anr. v. State of NCT of Delhi & anr.