Kashmir Bar’s Tihar Jail Visit

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The Kashmir based J&K High Court Bar Association visited Tihar Jail in New Delhi on January 11, 2016 where they met detainees from Kashmir. After returning to valley, the Bar issued a statement detailing their interactions inside the highly secured prison which is being produced here for the interest of readers

As to know in what way the orders of J&K High court are flouted by Tihar Jail authorities and what kind of treatment is meted out to Kashmiri political prisoners lodged in various jails of Central Jail Tihar Delhi, once again came to fore when a five member team of J&K High Court Bar Association Srinagar visited the said jail on January 11, 2016.

The Bar team was headed by Advocate Mian Abdul Qayoom, the President and included Advocates Mohammad Ashraf Bhat, Arshad Andrabi, Mohammad Shafi Reshi and Nasir Qadri, had been permitted by J&K High Court vide its order dated 28:12:2015 to visit different jails of Tihar and interact with the detainees/under-trial prisoners and convicts belonging to J&K State, so as to provide necessary legal aid and assistance to them.

However, when the said order was served by the bar team to the Director General Prisons Delhi, he endorsed the same to the Law Officer, of the Prisons Department who made the bar team to wait in his office for about three hours and then allowed them to meet only 5 (five) under trail prisoners of Kashmir lodged in jail no. 1, 3, 4, 8 and 9. Though the court order in unambiguous terms provided for the meeting of the bar members with all the detainees/under-trial prisoners/convicts whose number is roughly 30, but the jail authorities allowed the team to meet only 5 (five) under-trial prisoners on the ground that they have instructions not to allow any Kashmir lawyer to meet any under-trial prisoner/convict/ detainees of J&K State lodged in the said jail.

It was at about 3 PM that the Bar team was first of all allowed to meet Rafiq Ahmad Shah and Ghulam Mohammad Bhat who along with 7 (seven) other Kashmiri prisoners are lodged in jail no. 8 and 9. After meeting the aforesaid two persons the Bar team requested the Superintendent of the jail to allow them to meet other 7 (seven) prisoners of Kashmir as well, but he refused to give them any such permission. The aforesaid two prisoners told the Bar team that they all the Kashmiri prisoners have been kept in high security wards and they have no facility of radio or newspaper available to them. They said that they had the canteen facility available to them but that facility as well has been taken away by the jail authorities. They also stated that they are taken to the courts in the cases pending against them but the Judges are fixing their cases after every two months on the ground that they have lot of other work to do. They also stated that in cases where final arguments have been heard, prosecution has been allowed to lead evidence to prolong the agony of the prisoners. They stated that they have filed bail applications before the trial courts but no orders have been passed on those applications and even their request for release on furlough and parole had been rejected.

Tariq Ahmad Dar who is lodged in Jail no. 3 along with one more Kashmiri prisoner stated that in his case arguments were heard by the judge but instead of announcing judgment prosecution was given further time to lead evidence and the case was posted for 16:02:2016 he stated that after hearing arguments it was not open on the part of the judge to reopen the case and give opportunity to the prosecution to fill up the lacuna pointed out by the defence during arguments but least bothering for the aforesaid well established legal position, prosecution was granted time to lead further evidence in the case. He stated that inside the jail also there is discrimination amongst the prisoners and while as, all the prisoners are allowed to speak to their families seven times in a week on phone, but Kashmir prisoners are allowed such facility only twice in a week and that too for 5 minutes only. He stated that Kashmiri prisoners have been deprived of canteen facility and hefty amounts are being charged from the visitors who come all the way to meet them.

Muzaffar Ahmad Dar who is lodged in jail no. 4 and was on hunger strike on 11:01:2016 told the bar team that his family members had come to meet him but for the past 8 days they have not been allowed a meeting with him. He stated that when he enquired from the jail authorities as to why his family members have not been allowed to meet him he was told that such a meeting is forbidden because he has allegedly cooked food inside the jail. Muzaffar Ahmad Dar told the bar team that he has not cooked any food in the jail and the allegation levelled against him is totally false.

He said that he had requested the jail authorities to see the video footage of the day and see for themselves as to whether he has cooked any food in the jail or nor but they refused to do so. He stated that his family members are wandering for the last 8 days but the jail authorities are not taking any pity on them and they are not being allowed to meet them. He stated that even though the Jail Superintendent had recommended his meeting with his family members, but the higher authorities accepted his recommendations and thus as well as his family members have been punished for no wrong committed by them. He said that he was brought to Delhi from Central Jail Srinagar in 2014 and a supplementary charge sheet was filed against him in the court 2 (two) years back but till date the judge has not heard the arguments on the framing or not framing of the charge in the case against him.

He said that he has challenged the jurisdiction of the NIA court before the Delhi High Court but his petition was dismissed on the ground that he is free to raise the issue at any time in future. He said that when NIA court is available at Jammu and cases of Kashmir prisoners are being heard by the said court, it is surprising as to why he has been made to face the trail in an NIA court at Delhi and in the process his all recourses have been drained and his family members have been meted out to inhumane treatment.

Mohammad Shafi Shah who is lodged in jail no. 1 stated before the Bar team that his case is making no progress in the courts and his request for appointing an advocate for defending him has not been accepted by the Judge. He also stated that here is no facility of radio or newspapers available to the Kashmiri prisoners in the jail and they did not know as to what is happening outside the jail.

He said that they are lodged in high security wards and cameras are fitted in every ward to monitor the activities of the Kashmiri prisoners which is not so with the other prisoners. He stated that if any act of Kashmiri prisoner is not liked by the jail authorities he is punished summarily and his meeting with family members is stopped. He stated that the jail authorities enjoy unfettered powers in the jail and there are no checks on them.

From the aforesaid facts and circumstances it is quite evident that the condition of the Kashmiri prisoners lodged in different wards of Tihar is very bad as they have been deprived of all the facilities by the jail authorities. There is no TV in their wards where they have been kept and even the facility of radio or newspapers is not available to them, though the said facility is available to other prisoners lodged in the said jail. They had the facility of canteen but that facility has also been taken away from them.

They are taken to the courts but their cases are adjourned by months together without recording any progress. In NIA Court, proceedings are to be conducted on daily basis but the Kashmiri prisoners are denied the said right by the courts without any rhyme or reason.

Inside the jail also they are subjected to discrimination also while as all other prisoners are free to talk their families 7 (seven) times in a week, Kashmiri prisoners are allowed to talk only twice in a week and that too for 5 minutes only and are made to pay heavy amount as the cost of such taking on phone.

The Bar Association has accordingly decided to take up the matter of these prisoners before the High Court of J&K and to ensure that these prisoners get fair deal at the hands of the Tihar jail authorities.

Meanwhile, the Bar Association has also requested the Amnesty International and International Red Cross to use their good offices for redeeming the sufferings of these prisoners so that while in jail they live a normal life like other prisoners without being harshly treated and discriminated against.

Bashir Sidiq

General Secretary

J&K High Court,

Dated: 13:01:2016

Bar Association

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