“I still cannot forget those days inside the jail, eating bad food, sleeping on the foul mattresses and using the stinking washroom. I come from a poor family, but we stay in a much better condition. My first day was horrible – I was beaten up by the other convicts; they called me names for being a rape accused. The next day, a jail staffer came to me and told me that if I could give him some money, I could lead a better life inside jail. I told him that I do not have money to give him.”
- Raju Sharma (convicted for rape in 2008; life sentence; Tihar Jail)
“We were woken up at 6 a.m. by the jail staff, and an hour later, we were served tea and two slices of bread. The tea served was so watery; there was hardly any milk or sugar in it. It used to be a hard task just somehow take in that tea with those two slices. After this breakfast, we were made to do menial works like cleaning the toilets besides the jail floor. I have also washed clothes for inmates who used to pay Rs 50 a day for my services. I once worked for inmates in 4B ward inside the jail, which is meant for high-profile prisoners. I was amazed to see an air cooler and an LCD TV; even the food served in these cells was of a much better quality. Curious, I asked a fellow inmate, who had been in Tihar for much longer, about how these people led such a comfortable life. He told me that the entry fee for lodging inside 4B ward was Rs 50,000. Once a person has paid the fee, he will be given all the comforts and no rules will be applied to them. Prisoners like me were locked up thrice, once at 12 noon after lunch, then at 3 p.m. and again at 6 p.m. However, no such rules applied for inmates staying in 4B ward.”
- Papu Yadav (convicted for murder in 2012; life sentence; Tihar Jail)
Prison life is hard anywhere. It’s a place where acts and liberties of prisoners are restricted. It is restricted with the aim of punishing them, improving their behaviour, teaching them the difference between right and wrong, it’s a time for prisoners to get self-realization and gain perspective by doing introspection of the wrong done by them. The conditions span the range from dire to dreadful and can be ruthlessly harsh. These conditions are unsparing ‒ except when it comes to VIPs and moneybags. It is an open secret that if one has cash to offer, even a stint in jail can be comfortable.
According to a news report, VIPs get a separate room with a toilet, better quality of food, doctor’s services 24×7, emergency ambulance service, a pillows and a bed, better lightning and an extra light for reading purpose, newspaper service and books of his/ her choice, wi-fi service, TV, air-condition, frequent number of visits by their family members and other visitors, liberty to wear causal dress. Not only this they also hire other inmates to wash their laundry, clean the floor and these inmates who volunteer are paid additional money.
Question arises- why the prisoners should be treated differently in the prison? Why the “class status”, “the rich and poor” be continued and followed even in prisons? Why should a person be given a different and special treatment just because he/ she is wealthy influential and “can afford” whereas the other not so influential be denied because he “cannot afford” when both of them are in prison for commission of a crime? When law and order doesn’t distinguish between the people then what right the “authorities” and “money” have!
It is argued that special treatment is given because of factors such as threat to life, prone to allergies, being a celebrity or politician wish to lead a private life (even in jail), educate oneself and connect with the happenings in the world. Why are these reasons not applied to the other inmates also? Aren’t they entitled of learning and updating oneself with the happenings of the world?
The difference in the treatment does proves that power comes from money. And there needs an immediate check in this practise. It is time that such special treatments be stopped and everyone be treated as one not only in words and on paper but even in practise. One needs to realize that a sorry message is send across the world that no matter what crime you have convicted for if you have money you “still” live at ease by buy everything. This VIP treatment also shows a blatant disregard to the very fundamental concept of equal treatment and human rights. The administrative authorities should be held accountable and they ought to reason their acts as none of the laws or manuals provide for VIP treatment. It is indeed correct that a person has to make an Application in the Hon’ble Court and seek permission such as for access to home cook food, medicines, visits etc. But by doing so the Hon’ble Courts do not grant special and VIP treatments. However one cannot deny that Suo moto action should be taken by the Hon’ble Courts in this matter.
Some of the “VIP TREATMENT” in jails are narrated as under:-
TIHAR JAIL-DECEMBER 2015: SUBRATA ROY: Sahara Group chief Subrata Roy has paid a whopping Rs 1.23 crore to Tihar Jail authorities for all the special privileges he enjoyed in a special cell. Roy was sent to Tihar Jail on 4th March, 2014, for failing to refund over Rs 20,000 crore with interest to depositors. Tihar Jail authorities have received Rs. 1,23,70,000 from Sahara Group for using the conference room. The payment includes charges for security, electricity, maintenance, rent and other facilities like food and water. It is said that Subrata Roy enjoyed benefits that had never been seen by anybody in prison before and is the first person in the history of Tihar Jail to have comforts of air-conditioning.
YERAWADA JAIL-AUGUST 2015: SANJAY DUTT’S PAROLE: Sanjay Dutt had left the prison on paroles and leaves of furlough on numerous times. This is termed as VIP Treatment because the other inmates who don’t get the same leniency.
RANCHI-OCTOBER 3, 2013: LALU PRASAD: The RJD Chief Lalu Prasad was a VIP prisoner in Birsa Munda Jail and was getting all the amenities. Longer visiting hours in comparison with regular inmates, an upper division cell with a TV and two cooks, a generous supply of rice, fresh vegetables, mutton/chicken or fish, ghee, and seasonal fruits and the option of getting food from outside, are just some of the entitlements.
JODHPUR CENTRAL JAIL – SEPTEMBER 2013: ASARAM BAPU: He demanded food cooked at homes of jail officials, Ganges water for bathing purposes and two of his followers as his personal attendants in jail. Reportedly such demands were met.
ORAI- SEPTEMBER 2013: SANGEET SOM & SURESH RANA: MLAs Sangeet Som and Suresh Rana were given VIP treatment in jail. The duo were being saluted in prison and were given a guided tour by the jail authorities. The jailor of the prison was caught on camera saluting Sangeet Som while the MLA was being taken into the jail.
LUCKNOW- JULY 2012: MUKHTAR ANSARI & VIJAY MISHRA: Mukhtar Ansari, an Independent MLA supported by the ruling Samajwadi Party, and Vijay Mishra of the SP are only released to attend Assembly proceedings. Mukhtar Ansari is an accused in the murder of BJP MLA Krishnanad Rai. Vijay Mishra has been accused of attacking BSP leader Nanad Kumar Nandi.
KAPURTHALA CENTRAL JAIL – APRIL 2013: JAGIR KAUR: The former Punjab Chief Minister Bibi Jagir Kaur was convicted to five years imprisonment after being found guilty of wrongfully confining and subsequently forcing her daughter to undergo an abortion. The amenities and facilities she received was a 32-inch television screen and a cable network connection that were installed in Kaur’s prison, ostensibly for her to enjoy her favourite programmes while in jail and free access to her mobile phone and her relatives.
TIHAR JAIL- OCTOBER 2011: VIKAS YADAV: Vikas Yadav, son of politician DP Yadav and in jail for the murder of Nitish Katara, spent a lot of his prison time in a hospital. He also managed an outing for a night for Diwali and two policemen who allowed him to step out were subsequently suspended. An examination by doctors also revealed that he didn’t have any medical problems that required hospitalisation.
TIHAR JAIL-SEPTEMBER 2011: AMAR SINGH: Defying the court orders that stated Singh to be put in one of the barracks, he lived in a ward with an attached bathroom in Tihar Jail. He had two cell mates with him, who scrubbed the floor of the cell 4-5 times every day. And frequently, they sprayed insecticides to keep the ward mosquito-free. The cell mates were not allowed to use Singh’s bathroom. He was allowed home-cooked meals.
TIHAR JAIL-2009: MANU SHARMA: Manu Sharma, convicted of the murder of model Jessica Lal, had also been found partying in 2009 after being granted parole by a court to attend his grandmother’s funeral and see his ailing mother.
There remains no doubt that the rich and powerful manage the system – be it food, parole, illness or privileges inside prison. Unfortunately social class hierarchies don’t dissolve in jail as well.
By Adv Ms. Pinny Pathak