Undertrials use funds to buy food, liquor, cigarettes, or a comfortable sleeping area. Money also helps appease cops, who allow prisoners to spend more time with relatives or friends after a hearingMumbai: Inmates at Arthur Road jail are getting vocal about the alleged partiality shown by prison personnel towards rich or influential persons who are doing time. Well-to-do undertrials, who are able to smuggle cash into the prison and buy small luxuries by bribing policemen, are being exposed in the process.
Despite strict checks, a source revealed, “A tailor’s shop near the jail is being used to bring cash inside. Relatives, friends or gang members deposit their money at the shop. The tailor then takes his commission and hands over the rest to constables posted inside. The constables collect the money and hand it over to the undertrial for a percentage. If they bring Rs 10,000, they are entitled to a commission of Rs 1,000.’’
Sources said influential undertrials use these funds to buy food, liquor, cigarettes, or a comfortable sleeping area. Often, money helps to appease constables, who allow prisoners to spend more time in court meeting their relatives or friends after a hearing.
An inmate who was recently released from the overcrowded prison told this paper that at least 30 new undertrials are brought to Arthur Road jail every day. “The number of undertrials is increasing day by day. Most of them are not taken to court when their hearing is scheduled. Authorities do not even inform them and these inmates just keep waiting for their turn,’’ he said.
Many undertrials who come from a poor background, rely on legal assistance provided by the government. Lawyers who receive no prior briefing and lack experience are usually found defending such prisoners.
As per supreme court guidelines, an inmate has to be produced within 15 days if custody has to be extended. However, last year, over 50 inmates had gone on strike demanding to know why they were not being taken to court on the scheduled dates. Inmates had complained that their relatives were being inconvenienced in the process as they would come from various places to the court premises on the given day, in the hope of meeting the prisoner but they had to go back disappointed.
On the other hand, some inmates, who are influential or have deep pockets, are frequently allotted dates by the clerical staff to attend court. “The jail authorities act like their friends. They are informed in advance about their dates,’’ a police informant said.
Unofficially, inmates are loosely categorised on the basis of their crime: Those accused in heinous crimes are termed bahadur, petty thieves and drug addicts are described as ‘third grade’, and those belonging to organised gangs are bhai or bhai ka admi. Gangsters and those deported from other countries enjoy an exalted status as Khas aadmi.
Sources said when rich undertrials and gangsters are taken to court for hearings, their relatives and associates turn up to meet them and spend the next few hours in a leisurely manner. “Though the court gives them the next date in an hour or two, these inmates spend over three to four hours outside the court meeting acquaintances, eating meals, smoking and gossiping,’’ a source said.
Despite attempts, Arthur Road superintendent Jayant Naik was not available for comment.
The Times of India, February 28, 2006