Dismissing AAP leader Satyendar Jain's application seeking various food items as per his religious beliefs, a Delhi Court on Saturday said that Tihar Jail officials extended "preferential treatment" to him by providing him fruits and vegetables in violation of Delhi Prison Rules.
Jain is presently in judicial custody in Tihar Jail in connection with a money laundering case being probed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
Observing that the State cannot provide special privileges to anyone in the country, Special Judge Vikas Dhull said the billing details brought on record by Tihar Jail administration establishes that no fruits and vegetables were purchased by him from the jail canteen from August 20 till October 10, except on one occasion.
"Hence, this court prima facie believes that the fruits/vegetables were being provided without there being any order of DG Prison or any authority, to the applicant in violation of the DPR 2018, by the staff of Tihar Jail no.7, where the applicant was lodged. The providing of fruits and vegetables to the applicant was in violation of Article 14 of the Constitution of India, 1950 as State is bound to treat all the prisoners equally and there can be no discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, sex, religion, status etc. Article 14 of the Constitution of India, 1950 provides for Equality before Law, which basically means that all persons should be treated equally no matter whether they are poor or rich, male or female, upper caste or lower caste," said the judge.
The court said its observation regarding the preferential treatment is fortified by the fact that DG (Prisons) and around 26 officials of Tihar Jail no.7 were recently transferred and Superintendent, Jail No.7 was suspended. The same prima facie shows that Tihar Jail officials of jail no.7 "were providing preferential treatment to the applicant by providing fruits and vegetables, being Minister of Government of Delhi, in violation of DPR 2018," the court said.
The court also noted that as per the prison rules, there was no order to the effect of providing Jain with fruits or vegetables on account of his religious fast by Tihar Jail Administration.
"The very fact that applicant is now purchasing fruits and vegetables from the jail canteen w.e.f. 03.11.2022 as per the bills filed on record by the Tihar Jail Administration in Annexure "A" and has filed this application after suspension/transfer of officials of Tihar Jail administration prima facie establishes on record that the incumbent Tihar Jail Officials have stopped providing preferential treatment to the applicant, which was being given earlier to the applicant, in violation of the DPR 2018," the court said.
The special judge rejected the contention of Jain's counsel that the AAP leader lost two kgs of weight in one week and 28 kgs in total since the day of his incarceration due to stoppage of fruits, vegetables and dry fruits.
Observing that the weight loss cannot be attributed to Tihar Jail authorities, the court said that the reason for the same is that Jain has not consumed regular food in jail since the first day of his incarceration.
"A person, who does not consume regular food is bound to lose weight. Even a dietician prescribes fruits and vegetable diet when a person intends to lose weight.The applicant is also not following the advice given by the Medical Officer, Tihar Jail on 11.11.2022 to take regular meals, even though the applicant has himself asserted in para 5 of the application that as per Rule 342 of DPR 2018, he needs to be provided diet as advised by the Senior Medical Officer. Therefore, loss of weight of the applicant is on account of him not consuming regular food and Tihar Jail Administration is not responsible for the same," the judge said.
Denying relief to the AAP leader, the court however added that as and when he shows his desire to observe a religious fast, as enjoined by his religion, he shall inform the jail administration about the same in writing after which the same will be decided by the authorities in accordance with the relevant prison rules.
".... in case, the applicant is permitted to keep a religious fast, then he shall be provided food articles as allowed by the order of the Government as per Rule 341 of DPR 2018," the court said.
The court said from the language of Rule 1142 of DPR 2018, it is apparent that the permission has to be taken by a prisoner for keeping a religious fast and if the prisoner is permitted to keep religious fast, then only extra articles of food such as fruit/vegetables can be provided to inmates as per Rule 341 of DPR 2018.
"In the present case, neither there is any request placed on record of the applicant showing his desire to keep fast nor any order of DG, Prison or of any authority permitting the applicant to keep religious fast, as enjoined by his religion and ordering for providing fruits/vegetables to the applicant. Therefore, as per DPR 2018, there was no order to the effect of providing the applicant with fruits/vegetables, on account of his religious fast by Tihar Jail Administration," it added.
The court also noted that the Medical Officer of Tihar Jail No.7 has reviewed the health of the applicant on November 11 and has advised the stoppage of dry fruits and has further advised the applicant to take regular food available in the Tihar Jail.
"Since the stoppage of dry fruits has been done by the Medical officer, Tihar Jail No.7, this court can not substitute the advice of the doctor by its own discretion. The medical officer is the best person, who can advice the prescribed diet to the prisoners after observing the health of the inmates/prisoners. Whatever diet /supplement has been prescribed by the Medical Officer on 11.11.2022 to the applicant, must have been done in the best interest of the health of the applicant to keep him hale and hearty in the jail. Therefore, there is no ground made out to interfere with the advice of the medical officer dated 11.11.2022 stopping the dry fruits of the applicant," it said.