Tihar considering phone facility for inmates


New Delhi : Tihar Jail has been asked to consider introduction of telephone facility for its inmates.

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This happened after former top police officer R.K. Sharma, serving a life term for the murder of journalist Shivani Bhatnagar, wrote to the Delhi High Court demanding telephone facilities for inmates of the country’s largest prison which houses around 11,000 prisoners.

Sharma, a former inspector general in charge of Haryana prisons, said in his letter that among the measures to reform the functioning of prisons, a landline telephone facility should be provided to the inmates in certain circumstances.

The high court took cognizance of the letter and issued notice to the Tihar Jail superintendent, asking if such a facility could be provided.

Sharma, a 1976 batch Indian Police Service officer, is serving life imprisonment in Tihar for the Jan 23, 1999, sensational murder of Indian Express journalist Shivani Bhatnagar.

“We are considering whether telephone facilities could be provided to the inmates or not. It may pose a danger to their security too,” a jail official told IANS, unwilling to be named.

He said at present Tihar inmates are allowed the facilities of newspapers and television.

Kiran Bedi, once the Inspector General Prisons of Tihar, told IANS: “It is not unusual for inmates to be given telephone facility, but the question is how often should we give them a chance to interact with their families. In fact, many prisons around the world provide this facility to inmates.”

“All their calls should be monitored carefully so that inmates don’t pass on any information to outsiders,” Bedi added.

Sharma had been convicted largely on the basis of circumstantial evidence by a court. Additional Sessions Judge Rajendra Kumar Shastri ruled that the telephonic conversations between Sharma and Bhatnagar and also between him and the co-convicts completed the chain of circumstantial evidence and proved their guilt beyond any doubt.

Sharma’s appeal challenging his conviction in the nine-year-old case is pending in the Delhi High Court.

Besides Sharma, those sentenced to life imprisonment are hired killers Pradeep Sharma, Sri Bhagwan and Satya Prakash.

Sharma and the others were convicted on March 18 for plotting Shivani’s murder in her east Delhi apartment on Jan 23, 1999.