OF THE PEOPLE'S UNION
FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES ON THE RIOTS
IN CHENNAI CENTRAL PRISON
ON 17 Nov. 1999
People's Union for Civil Liberties, is deeply anguished over the immense human tragedy that occurred in the Central Prison, Chennai on 17.11.'99 and its fall - out.
In terms of the magnitude it is by far the worst prison tragedy in the post - independent period in Tamil Nadu since February 1950 when 22 communist prisoners were killed in Salem Prison and more than 100 prison-ers injured.
* * *
First, the PUCL would like to place before the public, the findings of the fact finding team (FFT)
headed by K. Manoharan, Vice President, PUCL (National). Its other members are: Dr. V. Suresh,
Advocate & General Sec-retary, PUCL, TN & Pondicherry ; Ossie Fernandes ; P.V.S Giridhar,
Advocate; Muthuvel, Advocate; Lavanya ; Srimathi ; S. Pandian - all members of PUCL, Tamil Nadu
Visit to the Hospitals and Interviews with the injured persons The injured prisoners and police / jail personnel were admitted in Kilpauk Medical College Hospital (KMCH), Government General Hospital (GGH), Government Hospital at Royapettah and subsequently in Stanley Medical College Hospital. (Out of 24 persons brought to Royapettah Hospital, 2 were treated as out - patients and 22 were admitted. Out of these 22, 13 were discharged on 18.11.'99 and sent back to the prison while 9 prisoners were sent to Stanley Medical College on the afternoon of 18.11.'99 due to security problem in Royapettah hospital.)
following is the list of prisoners and police personnel admitted in KMCH and
Stanley Medical College Hospital as on 18.11.'99 as found written inside the
* * * *
Out of the total 31 prisoners in KMCH the team found that 6 were on drips, quite a number of them had bullet injuries and others had multiple injuries. According to the report published in 'The Hindu' dated 20.11.'99 19 out of the 31 prisoners were discharged on 19.11.'99 while 7 with bullet injuries were referred to the Government General Hospital.
four police personnel admitted in the ward on the 6th floor of KMC Hospital
were found to be having superficial injuries and contus ions on their bodies.
* * * *
The Dean of the CGHS told the team members, that 38 prisoners and 10 policemen were admitted in GGH and out of these two police personnel were seriously injured and 3 prisoners were in critical condition. (According to Dr. Gunasekaran, Deputy Superintendent of GGH, 15 policemen were admitted and 2 of them were badly injured; surgical treatment was given to 4 persons for either bullet injuries or assault injuries. According to him the injured police personnel were brought first by the Jail doctors and only then the injured prisoners were brought.
to the Dean, the bodies of 9 persons including that of Boxer Vadivelu were kept
mortuary. At the time of the visit of FFT, i.e. until 2 p.m. on 18.11.'99 the autopsies were not done
on any of these bodies.
we go by the figure of injured persons admitted in the hospitals given by Government
as 95 and
compare it with the total no. of persons admitted in the these hospitals (35 in KMCH + 9 in Stanley
and 48 in GGH, total being 92), there still remains 3 persons to be accounted for.
* * *
According to the report published by 'The Hindu' dated 21.11.'99 based on hospital sources only 15
prisoners were under treatment as on 20.11.'99 while the rest have been sent back to the prison
since those who did not need specialised care would be treated at the prison itself.
to GGH sources mentioned above, those who were in critical condition as on 18.11.99
were only the injured prisoners. One of them - Pra-bakaran of Ashok Nagar - succumbed to injuries
Versions of the Injured Persons:
Of the 4 police men admitted in KMCH only 3 identified themselves. They were: 1) Vetrivendan,
Head Constable, 8739. He said he was attacked with stones and sustained minor injuries and
contusions in his neck and chest, right waist and left knee. There were no fractures or cut injuries.
According to him, the prisoners' riot was a well-planned out one and that it lasted for 3 hours,
before it was quelled.
Balasundaram, Armed Reserve Constable, belonging to Delta 10 force, stationed
Office of the Commissioner of Police, Chennai. According to him, the news of the riot reached
the Commissioner's Office through the Control Room, around 9 am on 17.11.99 and immediately
Delta 10 force consisting of about 100 policemen, 20 of them armed with guns and the rest with
lathis and protective shields was dispatched to Central Prison. It was about 9.30 am when they
reached the Central prison, where they found the Record Room burnt. The prisoners were throwing stones, broken tiles, bot-tles etc., at the police. He said he sustained injuries on his left forearm and right knee. (At the time of the visit of FFT, he was seen freely moving both his arms and legs.) He said that after he sustained injuries, he left the prison building and stayed inside the police vehicle outside the prison. He pleaded ignorance of other developments.
NSridhar, Police Constable, J.C. Striking Force. He told the team mem-bers that
information at 9 am about the prison riots, he along with about 10 of the J.C. Striking force went to
the Central Prison around 9.30 am. There were more than 2000 prisoners, many of whom were
armed with knives, wooden poles and broken tiles. When he and other policemen entered the
prison, they found the record room afire. Since their strength was small, they could not control the
prisoners who kept throwing stones and broken tiles on the policemen. Some of the stones and
broken tiles hit his head, chest, hands and legs, causing bleeding injuries. Since he had pain on
his chest, he went out and sat in his jeep. He did not know what happened afterwards.
The other policeman admitted in the Hospital (who did not want to re-veal his
team members were able to interview 14 of the 31 injured prisoners admitted
in the KMCH.
They requested the team members not to reveal their identities for fear of being tortured once
they returned to the prison.
summary of their versions of the events is as follows:
There has been simmering anger amongst the prisoners against the corrupt practices of the jail
authorities. The food served to the prisoners is not fit even to be fed to the dogs. Most of the inmates
get their food from their homes on a regular payment of bribe to the officials. Not even 50% of the
biscuits and fruits and other edibles brought to them by their visitors reach their hands. Their kith
and kin have to pay regular bribes to get the inter-views with the inmates.
supply is so meagre that sometimes 8 people will have to share only one or two
of water. While there are several gang leaders and their men in the prison, some gang leaders
are favoured by the jail authori-ties at the expense of the others. Two gang leaders Vellai Ravi
and Chera used to pay regular mamools to the jail officials. Detenus under COFEPOSA Act
are shown special favours. Corrupt practices like peddling of narcotics and liquor by certain
groups of prisoners are freely encouraged. Those who refuse to fall in line and question these
practices, and those who refuse to buy the favour of jail officials by paying 'mamools', are
targeted for torture. Any prisoner who dares to question the jail authorities for any reason would
be whisked away to the quarantine where he is stripped naked save for his undergarment (jatti)
and made to stand for hours. He cannot sit or lie down because the floor of the quarantine is flooded
with water. He is then 'taken care' of by 6 warders, each one of them take turns to kick the prisoner
with boots. The abdomen specifically attacked by the booted feet without caus-ing any visible mark
of injury on the body. The torture was carried out un-der the watchful eyes of the deceased Deputy
Jailer Jeyakumar. 26 warders newly recruited are also particularly known for their brutal treatment
they meted out to the prisoners.
Vadivel, was known for care he took for maintaining his well built body. He
used to exercises
every morning. He however rubbed Jeyakumar the wrong way several times, and he used to argue
for the rights of the pris-oners. He also consistently refused to pay 'mamools'.
prisoner named Ghouse was tortured and killed in the Central prison in July
'99. But no RDO
inquiry was conducted. It was explained away as suicide. This had caused deep resentment and
anger amongst the prisoners. Boxer Vadivel was removed to quarantine for three days from 12th
to 15th and tortured. He was taken to General hospital on 16th. He had such a strong physique that
he could have easily withstood stomach ailments like diarrhoea, etc., for as many as ten days. On
16th night Jeyakumar also tor-tured two other prisoners, Babu of Velachery and Nagaraj of Mylapore.
that is why when the news of Vadivel's death reached the prisoners at the early
hours of 17.11.'99
they became restive. When they assembled for the roll call they demanded an explanation from the jail
authorities. As the explanation given was not convincing, they became more aggressive and began moving
towards Jeyakumar. The Deputy Jailer said 'charge' and then he and the 26 newly recruited warders
retaliated and assaulted them with rods and lathis. Some of the new inmates of the jail were not able to
distinguish between the prisoners and some of the newly recruited warders since the latter were not in
their uniform when the clash began.
prisoners dispersed and regrouped and attacked the jail officials and then climbed
the roofs of the
jail buildings and tree tops and kept raising slogans while throwing stones and pieces of rods or whatever
objects they could lay their hands on.
prisoners interviewed by the team admitted that the behaviour of the inmates
was unruly and they did
not know who were responsible for burning alive Jeyakumar. They said they were not part of the groups
that attacked the Deputy Jailer and the warders. They claimed that the rebellion was al-most brought under
control by the Superintendent of Central Prison ( while they did not conceal their contempt and hatred for the
deceased Deputy Jailer and the 26 warders they spoke well of the Superintendent and the Ad-ditional
Superintendent) and that they almost surrendered. But at that point the 'adhiradi padai' (anti-riot police)
were brought in. It first burst tear gas shells and then subsequently opened fire on the prisoners (some of
the inter-viewees said that between tear gas shells and actual bullets, plastic bullets were also used.)
the inmates who climbed down from the walls and trees and ran into the cells
were being beaten
up brutally by lathis and rods the anti-riot police opened fire from outside the prison as well as from inside.
They said that one Jeyapal, a physically disabled person (with one leg impaired) who could not have
posed any danger to the police was shot point blank.
would like to print out that Jeyapal figures in the list of 9 dead pris-oners
given by the Government
on 18.11.99. The other names are Babu alias 'Thutti', Babu of Suriya Nagar, Korattur; Mani of K.K.Nagar;
Khader; Bhoominathan alias Arjun of Koilkuppam, Saidapet; Venkat of Veyasar-padi; Sasi of Mannady;
Balamurugan of Saidapet and Lakshmanan. One more person - Prabakaran of Ashok Nagar,
succumbed to the injuries on 19.11.'99.
is significant that one of the prisoners who sustained bullet injuries (apart
from the deceased Jeyapal)
is also a handicapped person. He is Chinna-payan, a detenu under 'Goondas Act' He was arrested for
selling illicit liquor. His right leg is bent. He told the FFT members that he remained in his cell when the
trouble was on, but the police came and beat him up in the cell. He sustained injuries on his forehead,
right forearm and left ankle. When he was pulled out of his cell, a bullet grazed his head.
interviewees also said that several hundreds of other prisoners were also beaten
up but they
were kept in the jail hospital for treatment. Some of the interviewees said that when the rebellion was
on, they remained within their cells and when they saw an injured warder lying on the ground they went
to rescue him and revived him by sprinkling water on his face. But the anti-riot police, despite these
prisoners' plea that they were there only to protect the warder, mercilessly beat them up. They were all
ordered to march to-wards a particular place and as they were climbing down the steps, their heads
were hit by lathis. This was how they sustained head injuries.
injured prisoners said that one of the injured prisoners Ezhumalai, first admitted
in GGH for
bullet injuries was brought to KMCH but as his condition became serious he was sent back to GGH
where he was said to have succumbed. They also said that it was widely believed that Vellai Ravi,
one of the gang leaders, was so savagely assaulted by the anti-riot police and the jail authorities
that he was almost dying. None of them knew where he was taken to after the situation was brought
Conditions and Violation of Human Rights
By any accepted standards, whether the U.N. Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of
Prisoners or the recommendations of any number of In-quiry Commissions and Prison Reform
Commissions which the Government institutes from time to time, the conditions in the Central
Prison, Chennai fall well below the level of decency. Overcrowding and inadequate physical
circumstances further degrade the prison conditions. It gives rise to a num-ber of problems
ranging from hostility amongst the prisoners to concealed and unconcealed anger against
the prison authorities. The Chief Minister Mr. M. Karunanidhi has himself admitted that the
role call taken after the tragedy testified to the presence of 2073 inmates (excluding the
104 casual-ties). This is double the number that could be accommodated in this prison.
It is interesting to note that the figures of casualties once again vary from the earlier figure
given as 95.
* * * *
PUCL wishes to emphasise that whatever attributes with which Boxer Vadivel lived
and died or whatever noble qualities which the deceased Jeya-kumar was endowed with,
and the fact that the latter met with a gory death caused by the mad fury of the mutinous
prisoners, it should not eclipse the need to conduct an impartial inquiry into the attitude
of the Deputy Jailer towards the prisoners in general and towards Boxer Vadivel in particular
which culminated in the prisoners seeking a focal point to give vent to their pent-up anger.
human rights organisations across the world have observed that while force is
legitimately used to suppress riots, the purpose is often to exact vengeance on the rioters. This
seems to be true in the case of the Chennai prison riots of 17.11.'99. So long as the prison remain
invisible to the public gaze and the Government acts solely on the version of the jail and police
officials, there is no possibility of assessing the nature of the recent riot and its fall out within the
* * *
Earlier Prison Riots
is known that this prison riot was preceded by two other recent riots. One in
February, 1995 in
Chennai prison, where 87 inmates, including 27 TADA detenus, were severely assaulted in the
wake of the escape by 9 TADA de-tenus. The other in March 1995, in Madurai Central Prison,
when prisoners attacked the jail and police staff with poles. In neither of these instances, the
police summoned to assist the jail authorities resorted to firing. While this may be due to the
fact that the lives of the jail/police personnel were not endangered in the first instance, the same
cannot hold for the second in-stance, where a jail official was reported to have been killed.
1979, however, there was an instance of police firing in Tiruchy prison. That
police firing, presided over by that iron-fisted po-lice officer Walter Dewaram, did not fortunately
leave anybody dead, though a prisoner, Mariappan, succumbed to injuries caused by the assaulting
police. An inquiry commission, headed by the Sessions Judge Murugesan, could ensure only
departmental action against certain prison officials. The police firing were not officially recorded
the rebellion of the prisoners could be organised peacefully and re-sponded
to in an equally
peaceful manner was proved in 1974, in Cuddalore prison. The naxalite leader, A. M. Kothandaraman,
led the rebellious prison-ers, who sought to express their anger and resentment against inhuman
prison conditions. The prisoners, on one hand, and jail and police authorities on the other, entered
into a peaceful dialogue to sort out matters. Some jail officials were later suspended. The Jail
Superintendent, Sengodan, was re-moved from service - for keeping the cells unlocked for one
whole day! The officials thus suspended were subsequently re-instated. It is relevant to point out
here that except for political prisoners, the great majority of prisoners everywhere, given their
deprived social and economic circumstances, are not skilled in organising or communicating.
The Riot in Chennai Prison - Its Special Features
sets the Chennai prison tragedy apart is the unfortunate instance of burning
alive of a
prison official and the subsequent police firing, which seem to have been resorted to, more for
exacting vengeance, rather than controlling the situation. Surely the scale of firing and the choice
of what appears to be arbitrary targets (such as the deceased Jeyapal) is unwarranted. The retributive
rage that propelled the policemen into such a big scale of firing and indiscriminate lathicharging
is only matched by the mad fury of the prisoners who burnt alive the prison official. This blurred the
clear dis-tinction between what is generally expected of the prisoners - especially the 'hardened
criminals' in revolt, and of the police, which is basically a law enforcing machinery. There was no
question of the possibility of prisoners escaping by taking advantage of the situation. To reach the
main gate, the prisoners have to pass through 2 other heavily guarded and insurmountable gates.
Moreover, high walls with electric fencing protect the prison build-ing. The prison is like a huge
enclosure where the prisoners are herded into with no exit point. The police fired from vantage
positions like the roof of the Park Railway station which was well away from any vulnerable distance
that could have been covered by the attacking prisoners themselves or by whatever missiles they
were throwing at the police. While the police burst tear gas shells, it is surprising why public
announcement system (loudspeak-ers) were not used to warn the rioting prisoners and a flag
march of the armed policemen was not carried out to persuade them to disperse. The police
and jail authorities could have done well to allow the prisoners exhaust themselves while
simultaneously using reasonable force and persuasive methods.
must be pointed out here that the dehumanised attitude of the police and jail
was extended to the families of the prisoners. Family mem-bers were not allowed to visit the
injured prisoners both in the jail and in the hospitals. The identities of the injured prisoners
were kept secret. The authorities were not willing to divulge to the anxious family members
details of where the injured were being treated. As a result hundreds of the kith and kin of the
prisoners were seen going desperately from one hospital to an-other, from the prison to the
police stations trying to find out where their near and dear ones were.
jail and police authorities maintained that the identities of injured and dead
could not be
immediately made available, because the records had been burnt! But surely the injured
prisoners, excepting those in critical conditions and in a state of coma, could have identified
themselves and each other. The police also terrorised the members of the families who
received the autopsied bodies of the prisoners into hurriedly cremating the bodies without
even performing the last rights.
and the 'Goonda Act'
The Chennai prison riot has brought to public attention the problem of over-crowding in the
prison. It is clear that the Chennai prison has double the number of inmates than it can
actually house. Prison resources, which, in the best possible conditions are meagre, have
thus to be shared amongst a great number of people and given the corrupt and coercive
conditions under which prisoners have to live, this does cause a great deal of anger and
resentment amongst prison inmates. But there is a further and more fundamental problem
here, and that has to do with the causes of overcrowding in the Chennai Central Prison.
This prison is a transit prison as well and therefore has an extremely large number of
undertrials, who suffer incarceration for long periods of time. This is because most of
them are poor and do not have ac-cess to lawyers who will be able to help them. Trials
also take an inordi-nately long time, and the absence of a speedy trial means that the
prison will not only remain overcrowded, but continuously add on inmates to those
already existing ones.
undertrials are here on account of crimes such as robbery, felony, bootlegging,
extortion and so on, crimes that have been occasioned more by the deprived and
unjust circumstances in which they find themselves, than any motivated notion of crime.
Besides, and this is extremely significant to the problem of overcrowding, a substantial
number of the undertrials in this prison are the ones who have been arrested under 'The
Tamil Nadu Preven-tion of Dangerous Activities of Bootleggers, Drug Offenders, Forest
Offend-ers, Goondas, Immoral Traffic Offenders and Slum Grabbers Act of 1982', This is
popularly known as the 'Goondas Act'. Under this Act, anyone who is arrested can be
detained for a period of one year, provided an Inspector of Police is subjectively satisfied
that the person warrants being arrested under the Act. Within three months the case of such
a detenu has to be presented before an Advisory Board, which will decide whether the detention
is war-ranted. In Tamil Nadu, this Advisory Board is headed by a retired High Court Judge.
In practice, the Advisory Board rarely does non-approval of detention orders.
is a more fundamental problem. A person detained under the 'Goon-das' Act is
allowed access to the due process of law. For the police this is of extreme advantage,
since they do not have to conduct an investigation to establish the prosecution case.
They do not have to produce the prisoner before a court, and summon witnesses.
Sheer deskwork is enough on the part of the police officer to thus detain and commit
a person to prison. Often, when such a prisoner is released after one year, he returns
a broken person or even becomes a more seasoned criminal, since in an overcrowded
prison, the chances of him being exposed to different sorts of criminals is higher. Ironically
enough a law meant to prevent crime ends up actually creating a crimi-nal.
'Goondas Act' is discriminatory in another respect. Those who are de-tained
usually from the lower income groups, mostly slum-dwellers and from the oppressed
castes. Often youth from such social groups are utilised by criminal gangs, which
enjoy political support for various nefarious pur-poses, such as extortion. In many instances,
the police are known to be in league with big traders. The police in such instances threaten
the extortion-ists as well and demand bribes from them. The law can also be put to political
use, as happened recently in the northern districts, when large numbers of dalits, who were
protesting for their rights, were picked up under this Act.
* * *
It is being suggested by well meaning people that to avoid overcrowding in prisons, part of
the prison population be shifted elsewhere, for instance to Red Hills, where a new prison has
been built (The prison does not as yet have the necessary infrastructure for housing large numbers
of inmates). In view of what we have said above, this is clearly a superficial remedy. Besides,
it does something insidious as well. For now, the prisoners cease to be visible to the public eye,
so to speak, and secondly, their new place of so-journ could well become a permanent camp for
undertrials. Then there is the further problem of relatives and family members who now have to go
all the way to the city's northern suburbs to visit their kith and kin.
The police firing, especially the scale and magnitude from within and outside
the prison is prima
facie unprecedented, unwarranted and exces-sive. It was done solely as a retributive measure for
the death of the Deputy Jailer Jayakumar which is no doubt a most reprehensible and heinous act.
Sending back the injured prisoners from the Government Hospitals to the ill-equipped
is a blatant violation of human rights. The injured prisoners which the FFT members were able to see
had multiple injuries on their persons and it requires better medical facilities than those available in the
prison hospital to heal them. Government attitude seems to be to rush the injured prisoners out of the
Government Hos-pitals so that they could claim that only lesser number of prisoners had sustained injuries.
Even according to Government's own admission there is one person with spinal injuries (the report in
'The Hindu' (Chennai) dated 21.11.'99) and that a special team of five specialists in-cluding a neurologist,
a physician, a surgeon, and an orthopedic surgeon visited the prison hospital to review the treatment
given there (It should have been other way round, that is, such a seriously injured person should have
been brought to the Government Hospital where he could get the care and attention of all the specialists).
Such a practice sets a dangerous trend that would only help the authorities conceal from the public the
brutality to which the prisoners are subjected to within the prison walls.
The genuine grievances of the prisoners and their pent-up anger against the
wrongs done to them,
though articulated in ghastly forms, are sought to be eclipsed by the Government by demonising the
prisoners - both dead and alive and focusing only on the gruesome manner in which the Deputy Jailer
was done to death. There has been no convincing expla-nation about the whereabouts and the condition
of Vellai Ravi. Even assuming he is guilty of the attack that culminated in the death of the Deputy Jailer
Jeyakumar, the normal course of law should be allowed to proceed against him, which means he should
have been produced before the magistrate as the first step. The kith and the kin of the prisoners have the
fundamental right to know where they are kept and how they are treated.
There was unprecedented delay in conducting post-mortem of the bod-ies of the
prisoners died in jail
custody (including that of Boxer Vadi-vel). The delay in conducting the post-mortem results in decomposing
of the bodies and the disappearance of the evidence of the physical tor-ture and range of firing. The explanation
given by the Government that post-mortem of the bodies of some of the prisoners died could not be done as
their relatives did not come forward to claim these dead bodies is untenable. Under CrPC 176, the Revenue
Divisional Officer (RDO) has to conduct the inquest. The authority conducting the inquest should give the
requisition along with the necessary documents. In the requisition itself, the Authority should mention that
a panel of two or more doctors should do the autopsy. At the same time, the same Authority should arrange
for videography without delay. Only Forensic Medicine experts at the teaching hospitals of government
medical colleges should do autopsies of all custodial victims where the departments of Forensic Medicine
are present and on no condition should such autopsies be con-ducted in the absence of natural light (from
sunrise to sunset). In view of this the delay in conducting the autopsies is unlawful and could only be
construed as attempts to cover up certain important clues as to the causes of the death of these prisoners.
1. We urge the Government to make public the actual number of persons injured (both the prisoners
and the officials) and their whereabouts and their physical conditions.
2. We also demand that the whereabouts of Vellai Ravi be made public.
Post-morterms of all the dead bodies of the prisoners kept in the Gov-ernment
be conducted immediately.
We urge the Chief Minister to appoint the Commission of Inquiry into the prison
announced by him in the floor of the Legislative As-sembly and name the sitting High Court Judge
who would head the Commission without further delay. The delay would only enable the police
and jail authorities to cover up their lapses. We also urge that the terms of reference for the
Commission of Inquiry should include the in-quiry into the corrupt practices prevalent in the prison
as well as the way in which the prisoners were handled by the jail authorities includ-ing the
deceased Deputy Jailer Jeyakumar. We have also further de-mand to make in this instance:
those who depose before the Commis-sion should be made to secure their safety and
well being. In fact, to make sure that no vengefulness is practiced within the prison walls,
the government should allow free access to bodies such as National Human Rights
Commission and established civil and human rights groups to visit the prison from time
to time. Such bodies / organisation should also be permitted to participate in the proceedings
of the Commission. Further, we hope that the findings of this Commission are not allowed
to gather dust, as have been the fate of earlier Commission of Inquiry.
We urge the Government to ensure that the solatium of Rs. 1.5 lakhs to each
families of the prisoners killed in the prison riot is paid without delay.
We would also like to make the following general demand. At present autopsies
are conducted only by government doctors which are video photographed. While
we do not doubt their professional competence, we are also sensitive to the fact
that often they have to function amidst an unacknowledged tremendous political
and governmental pressure. Therefore, it has been the demand of women's groups
and civil and human rights organisations that during examination of rape victims or the
performance of autopsies a person belonging to such activist and so-cial groups
along with two doctors who are chosen by the activist groups and families be present.
This will ensure a third point of view is made available. The inquest reports and
post-mortem reports must be made easily available public documents.
7. We also demand a repeal of the much abused 'Goondas Act' for reasons detailed above.
Though the present conditions in our prisons cry out for thorough over-hauling
upon the government to take necessary steps to imple-ment the following reforms
(a) Discrimination in food allotment and consumption between prisoners convicted for
crime and under-trials (750 grams and 450 grams respectively) should be abolished.
(b) Convict Warders system inside the jail should be abolished
(c) under-trial prisoners should have all Prisoners' rights and facilities en-joyed by
(d) Solitary confinement as a method of punishment should be abolished.
(e) All discriminatory powers on punishment, remissions etc., presently vested
with the Jail Superintendent should be taken away. Advisory Board for considering
premature release should be formed. This Board should not consist political persons alone.
(f) Discretionary powers in the name of discipline inside the jails should be abolished.
Jail Superintendent should only record the offence for reference to a Magistrate.
No offence should be punished without affording an op-portunity to the offender in
an inquiry to be heard and to lead evidence in his favour.
(g) The result of prison inspection by the Board of Visitors should be made public
so as to be made accessible to any citizens body or human rights group. This Board
should be reconstituted in such a way to include aca-demics, representatives of
established human rights groups and psychiatrists.
(h) Provisions of Legal Services Authorities Act to be used to hold prisoners Lok
Adalats to reduce overcrowding, facilitate speedy trial, monitor under-trial court
appearances and assist in timely release.
(i) The Model Prison Bill prepared by the National Human Rights Commission
should be widely circulated and suggestions and modifications sent to the Commission.
(j) Any form of participation in the interview room should be removed.
Restriction of visitors of the relatives, friends and lawyers with regard to days and
time in a week should be liberalised.
(k) A policy for providing access to prisons by members of all media in-cluding the
electronic ones and for confidential interviews with the prisoners should be implemented.
Human Rights Organisations, both domestic and international must have free access to
police stations, prisons and custodial institutions.
(l) All prisoners should have the right to vote on par with the right to vote given to the
detenus under COFEPOSA.
(m) The prisoners injured due to clashes with the fellow prisoners or due to the harsh
punishment given by the prison authorities must be treated only in the Government Hospitals.
K. Manoharan, National Vice President; Dr. V. Suresh, General Secretary, PUCL, Tamil Nadu - Pondy ; Ossie Fernandes, Member; P.V.S. Giridhar, Member; Muthuvel, Member; Lavanya, Member; Srimathi, Member; S.Pandian, Member.
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