Tale of prison excesses in Model Jail, U.T.Chandigarh
Model Jail, Burail, U.T.Chandigarh is the second most important prison in North India. It comes next to Tihar Jail, Delhi in respect of violations of human rights as well as for keeping high profile prisoners. In Model Jail, Chandigarh, besides hundreds
of other prisoners, there are eight alleged Sikh terrorists facing trial in the famous case of assassination of former Chief Minister of Punjab, Beant Singh. They are in prison for the last seven years and have not stepped out of the jail premises because of imposition of Section 268 of Criminal Procedure Code by U.T.Chandigarh. According to this provision, an undertrial can be restrained from moving out of the jail premises for security reasons. Their trial is pending in the Court of Mr.H.S.Bhalla, Sessions Judge, Chandigarh since 1995. The persons facing trial in the above case are Jagtar Singh “Tara”, Jagtar Singh “Hawara”, Gurmeet Singh, Balwant Singh, Lakhwinder Singh, Paramjit Singh, Navjot Singh and Shamsher Singh.
The conduct of the jail authorities with Sikh prisoners in general and the above persons in particular has always remained discriminatory. Although these persons enjoyed equal facilities or in some matters more than any other prisoner, but they are always seen with suspicion. Two of them, Jagtar Singh “Hawara” and Jagtar Singh “Tara” was even implicated in a false case of Conspiracy to blow up model Jail, Burail, U.T. Chandigarh. Inspite of repeated intimidation and harassment, all these persons are living in high spirits and passing their memorable time of their life peacefully. They reguarly hold kirtan samagams and distribute Karah Prasad (Sweet dish) and Langer through community Kitchen inside the jail premises on the occasion of all Gurpurabs and Baisakhi day.
The latest incident of excesses committed on these persons has annoyed every prisoner in the jail, notheless the Superintendent of the jail, Mr.D.S.Rana and his deputy Mr.Dalbir Singh Sandhu.The details of the incident as reported by Jagtar Singh “Hawara” and cross checked from the jail authorities are very depressing.
On October 31, 2002 there was a minor altercation between two under-trials inside the jail premises over smoking cigrettee in the jail. The matter was compromised between both of them and both admitted that they had some mis-understanding which has been resolved amicably and they don’t want any action against each other. But the jail authorities as a mark of punishment for causing indiscipline in the jail premises, put both of them in separate cell called “20 chakkis” (small cells numbering 20 each measuring 8ft X 8ft). This action of the authorities annoyed Jagtar Singh Hawara and few of his fellow undertrials. They insisted that objecting to smoking in the jail is no indiscipline and the persons put in solitary confinement should be released forthwith. When their demand was rejected, Jagtar Singh Hawara sat on a hunger strike joined by few others. These persons wrote a detailed complaint to the Inspector-General of Prisons, Chandigarh alleging that the superintendent and his deputy are disturbing the peaceful atmosphere of the jail by instigating few prisoners against another Assistant Superintendent and due to their internal tussle, the inmates of the jail face harassment and discrimination. The said complaint was reportedly forwarded by the jail authorities to the concerned authority on November 1, 2002. Although no action was taken on the said complaint, the Superintendent and his deputy felt annoyed at the action of the prisoners. The superintendent of the jail ordered that whosoever has been put into solitary confinement would not be brought out without his orders. When the prisoners sitting on Dharna(silent protest) inside the jail shouted slogans against the jail authorities and challenged them, the superintendent and his deputy found a golden chance to settle their score with them. On November 3, 2002 the superintendent, Mr.D.S.Rana called heavy force of jail staff armed with wooden canes and service guns and without any provocation, started beating the peacefully protesting prisoners. Even Jagtar Singh Hawara who had been on hunger strike for 24 hours was mercilessly beaten and he alongwith other prisoners suffered serious injuries on their person. After the indiscriminate cane charge, without providing any medical treatment, Jagtar Singh Tara, Jagtar Singh Hawara, Paramjit Singh, Shahbeg Singh, Attar Singh and Kesar Singh were thrown into the solitary confinement on November 3, 2002 and since then they are kept in 24 hour solitary confinement in the 20 chakkis( a small cell of 8 ft X 8 ft). They have been denied water for bath purposes, clothes and undergarments, holy books (Gutkas) for daily prayers and have not seen the light of the day for the last fifteen days.The condition of Jagtar Singh Hawara who is on hunger strike since October 31, 2002 has deteriorated. He was administered glucose drip twice in order to control his sugar level.
Their counsel have filed two separate application in the court of Sessions Judge, Chandigarh. In one application, they have sought proper medical treatment of the injured prisoners and in the other application prayer for holding a judicial inquiry into the whole episode of violation of human rights of the prisoners by the jail authorities has been made. The jail authorities have denied the allegations levelled by the prisoners and have instead submitted to the court that the prisoners had committed jail offences for which they were liable to be given punishment as per the jail rules and no violation of human rights of the prisoners have been committed by the jail staff. The case is fixed for November 20, 2002 for arguments on both the applications. Till the filing of this report, there was no sign of improvement in the condition of Jagtar Singh Hawara and the atmosphere in the jail is charged due to the villian attitude of the jail authorities.
November 16, 2002
LAWYERS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS INTERNATIONAL