During the course of investigations, police officials discovered, much to their amazement, the 'virtual den' of Sunil Rathi, one of the prisoners. Rathi, a notorious criminal of the area, was found not just using a number of mobile phones to keep in touch with his gang, he also enjoyed the latest movies and had had the jail toilet built to his specifications. What's more, he was regularly posting pictures of himself in various poses, including pumping iron at the jail gym, on his Facebook account!
The revelations point to an unimaginable, deeply shocking and sometimes ridiculous world inside jails in most parts of UP and Uttarakhand. Here, underworld goons openly carry arms, shooting each other with impunity. Here, prisoners, packed like sardines, sleep in shifts. Anything can be bought for a price - whether it is a mobile phone, an internet connection, or food from a dhaba or restaurant of choice. Here, only two things seem to matter — muscle, and money power.
So what ails jails? The root cause of the problem, say jail authorities, is massive overcrowding, and accompanying staff shortage. That may be true — numbers point to a severe space crunch. Moradabad jail for instance squeezes in 2800 inmates in space meant for 511;Dehradun jail has 1066 against a sanctioned strength of 580, while Agra central jail houses 2175 inmates in a capacity meant for 1050.
All of this usually translates into the rule of the jungle - survival of the fittest. "Because space is limited, inmates in Agra jail often have to sleep in turns," says Vikram Shukla, founder of Human Upliftment Movement (HUM), an NGO working with prisoners. "The poorer ones are the last ones to sleep while the rich and powerful avail the facility for the maximum time," he adds.
Fights often erupt inside usually for small and petty reasons, says a former prisoner. In Moradabad for instance, a jail notorious for various violent incidents, a fight had broken out in March last year, injuring many, when rival gangs fought inside the jail kitchen. "Often, inmates are found using sharpened spoons, which are called 'kattaney' in jail lingo as weapons during such fights," says a prison official.
But there's more to the issue than just filling up numbers. Sources say that the rot runs deeper and much of what is wrong inside happens because of collusion of some jail staff with prisoners. How else does one explain mobiles being smuggled inside? In Bareilly for instance, which has two jails that house over 2000 prisoners, including underworld don Babloo Srivastava, the going rate for a phone call, according to the relative of a prisoner, is Rs 500 for a 10-minute conversation.
Then there is the mental trauma associated with prison life. Last week, a prisoner in Haridwar jail took his own life, the second such instance in Doon's prisons within ten days. Prison watchers say that's not surprising. " The depression of being away from families, the guilt of crime, poor surroundings, bad food and torture by others can make anyone fall sick," says Shukla. "This is the reason why many inmates attempt suicide. Or they turn violent adding to the jail's already existing troubles."
Sasikala paid Rs 2 crore bribe to Bengaluru jail officials for exclusive kitchen, other favours: Prison report
In an explosive report to state government, IG prison D Roopa said Sasikala paid Rs 2 crore bribe to top officials of Bengaluru jail to have a special kitchen and other favours.
"As a reward for bribing the prison authorities from Rao to jail warden, Sasikala gets special menu daily, cooked by special chefs in a special kitchen near the women's cell," Roopa is said to have mentioned in the report.
Co-convicts Sasikala's sister-in-law Elavarasi and nephew VK Sudhakaran were also held guilty by a trial court in September 2014 and upheld by the Supreme Court on February 14 in the two-decade-old disproportionate assets case of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa.
The complaint was lodged on Monday by BJP MP Shobha Karandlaje, the family members of these prisoners were not being allowed to meet them.
An NHRC release said the complaint alleged the prisoners were beaten black-and-blue and shifted overnight (on July 16) in an injured condition to various other prisons at Mysore, Ballari, Belagavi and Davanagere.
According to the complaint, lodged on Monday by BJP MP Shobha Karandlaje, the family members of these prisoners were not being allowed to meet them.
The commission observed that the allegations of physical torture of the prisoners and their overnight transfer to other jails in an injured condition, if true, raised a serious issue of violation of their right to life and dignity.
It issued notices to Karnataka Director General of Police (DGP) and Inspector General (IG), Prisons, asking them to file within four weeks a detailed report on the allegations, along with a note on the current location and health condition of the "injured and shifted" prisoners.
"It need not be restated that a prisoner is not a slave of the State and is not denude of his fundamental rights while in judicial custody," the release said.
Allegedly, the prisoners were meted out this "inhuman" treatment because of their bid to stage a dharna inside the jail premises as they were not allowed to speak to (then) DIG (Prisons) D Roopa, who had visited the jail, it added.
DIG Roopa had recently flagged certain "grave irregularities" inside the Central Jail, including providing a sophisticated kitchen to one of the prisoners, (AIADMK Amma chief) V Sasikala, and VIP treatment to another prisoner, Abdul Karim Lala Telgi, the release said.
The issue of alleged preferential treatment to Sasikala, serving a four-year term in a disproportionate assets case, came to the fore after Roopa submitted a report to her superior, DGP (Prisons) H N Sathyanarayana Rao.
Both DIG Roopa and DGP Rao were transferred after they sparred over the report in public.
The government has also ordered a probe by a retired official into the allegations.
The release said that according to the complaint, the 32 prisoners were allegedly shifted in a hasty manner in order to avoid any disclosure to the inquiry officer.