The Delhi High Court recently constituted a fact-finding committee to evaluate and inform the Court about the condition of drinking water, sanitation facilities and hygiene in Delhi’s Tihar jail [Delhi High Court Legal Services Committee v Government of NCT of Delhi].
The 4-member committee consists of advocates Dr Amit George, Santosh Kumar Tripathi, Nandita Rao and Tushar Sannu.
“Recognizing the pressing nature of this issue, we deem it necessary to authorize an independent committee for a meticulous inspection of Tihar Jail. To this end, we establish a Fact-Finding Committee consisting of Dr. Amit George, Mr. Santosh Kumar Tripathi, Ms. Nandita Rao, and Mr. Tushar Sannu. Their mandate is to impartially evaluate the present conditions and update us on the status of drinking water, sanitation, overall hygiene, and the maintenance of washrooms/toilets within the complex,” the Court ordered.
A division bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Sanjeev Narula directed the Director General (Prison) of Tihar Jail to facilitate the committee's work and provide all requisite resources and support to enable a thorough examination of the jail premises.
The Court asked the committee and the Delhi government to file their detailed status report in the matter and listed the case for further consideration on October 18.
The Court was dealing with a public interest litigation (PIL) petition filed by the Delhi High Court Legal Services Committee (DHCLSC) stating that the inmates at Tihar lack drinking water and sanitary conditions at the complex are less than satisfactory.
It was argued that the state of washrooms was particularly concerning as many are in disrepair, and even the basic privacy of inmates is compromised due to broken doors, hampering their ability to maintain personal hygiene in private.
On April 17, 2023, a representative for the Government of NCT of Delhi updated the Court that initiatives to enhance basic amenities in Tihar Jail are underway.
However, the DHCLSC said that they have been inundated with complaints from Tihar jail inmates, who claim an alarming scarcity of basic necessities. The Court was told that there has been no discernible improvement in the living conditions within Tihar jail.
The Court examined the report and the photographs submitted and noted that they clearly revealed that inmates are bereft of essential amenities, including safe drinking water and functional toilets.
“Rule No. 425 of the Delhi Prison Rules, 2018, mandates that every inmate should have uninterrupted access to fresh drinking water at all times. These rules emphasize the importance of not only providing inmates with clean water but also ensuring a well-maintained sanitation system and washroom facilities,” the bench observed.
It added that even the Supreme Court has said that a prisoner's basic constitutional rights persist and therefore, any measures restricting an individual's freedom must not infringe upon their inherent dignity and rights.
Advocate Dr Amit George appeared for the DHCLSC.
Standing Counsel Santosh Kumar Tripathi with advocates Arun Panwar, Kartik Sharma, Rishabh Srivastava and Prashansa Sharma represented the GNCTD.
MCD was represented through its Standing Counsel Tushar Sannu.