Delhi High Court: In a case wherein, Delhi High Court Legal Services Committee, the petitioner filed a petition to address the issue of supply of clean drinking water and maintaining hygienic sanitary conditions within the Tihar Jail Complex, the Division Bench of Satish Chandra Sharma, C.J., and Sanjeev Narula, J., directed to establish an independent Fact-Finding Committee to impartially evaluate the present conditions of the Tihar Jail and update the Court on the status of drinking water, sanitation, overall hygiene, and the maintenance of washrooms or toilets within the complex.
In the instant case, the petitioner drew the Court's attention towards the inspection report conducted by the Panel Counsel. As per the report, there was a worrying deficiency in providing inmates with drinking water in the Tihar Jail Complex. Further, the sanitary conditions were described less than satisfactory as many washrooms or toilets were in disrepair and the basic privacy and personal hygiene of the inmates were compromised due to broken doors, hampering their ability to maintain personal hygiene in private.
Further, on 17-4-2023, the Government of Delhi's representatives updated the Court that initiatives to enhance the basic amenities in Tihar Jail were underway. However, the petitioner submitted that the Tihar Jail inmates had claimed an alarming scarcity of basic necessities like clean drinking water and proper sanitation facilities and there had been no apparent improvement in the living conditions within the Tihar Jail.
The Court observed that the reports and the photographs clearly revealed that the inmates were deprived of essential amenities, including safe drinking water and functional toilets. The Court referred to Rule 425 of Delhi Prison Rules, 2018 and opined that these rules emphasized the importance of providing inmates with clean water and ensuring well-maintained sanitation system and washroom facilities.
The Court further relied on State of Andhra Pradesh v. Challa Ramkrishna Reddy (2000) 5 SCC 712, wherein it was held that “the Right to Life under Article 21 of the Constitution remained inviolable, irrespective of an individual's imprisonment and opined that even if the prisoner was behind bars, the prisoner's basic constitutional rights was persevered”. Therefore, this Court opined that any measures that restricted an individual’s freedom must not infringe upon their inherent dignity and rights.
The Court recognized the pressing nature of the issue and authorized to establish an independent Fact-Finding Committee, consisting of Dr. Amit George, Santosh Kumar Tripathi, Nandita Rao, and Tushar Sannu to impartially evaluate the present conditions of the Tihar Jail and update the Court on the status of drinking water, sanitation, overall hygiene, and the maintenance of washrooms or toilets within the complex.
The Court further directed the Director General (Prison) of Tihar Jail to facilitate the Committee’s work by providing all requisite resources and support to enable a thorough examination of the jail premises.
The Court stated that a detailed status report from the Committee and the Government of Delhi was anticipated on the subsequent hearing and listed the matter to be heard on 18-10-2023.
[Delhi High Court Legal Services Committee v. State ( NCT of Delhi), 2023 SCC OnLine Del 5375, order dated 23-08-2023]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For the Petitioner: Amit George, Advocate
For the Respondents: Santosh Kumar Tripathi, SC, GNCTD with Arun Panwar, Kartik Sharma, Rishabh Srivastava and Prashansa Sharma, Advocates; Tushar Sannu, SC, MCD