Delhi gangrape convict's attempted suicide in Tihar brings focus on security lapses in prison

Vinay Sharma, one of the four convicts in the 16 December, 2012, Delhi gangrape case, tried committing suicide in Tihar jail on Thursday.

Sharma tried to hang himself from an iron grill of his prison cell around 9.30 pm on Wednesday night. A police personnel had spotted him and tried stopping Sharma. He was later taken to Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital where his condition is reported to be stable.

Sources in the jail told PTI that he has been suffering from depression and had consumed a heavy dose of anti-depressants before trying to commit suicide.

Sharma's lawyer AP Singh, however, alleged that it was not a suicide attempt, but attempt to murder. "Few days ago, I met him in jail where he complained about torture inside the jail premises," Singh told IANS.

This is not the first such incident reported from the Tihar jail. In 2013, Ram Singh, one of the main accused in the case, was found hanging in his prison cell. Though the prison authorities said that he committed suicide using the clothes that he was wearing to hang himself, a magisterial inquiry was launched later.

Delhi gangrape convicts attempted suicide in Tihar brings focus on security lapses in prison

In response to a question in Rajya Sabha in 2014, Minister of State for Home Affairs Haribhai Parthibhai Chaudhary had said, "In Delhi orisons, 11 prisoners committed suicide and 16 attempted to commit suicide during last three years till 30th September, 2014, mainly due to mental stress due to their court cases."

According to The Times of India, Ram Singh's family and lawyers had alleged that he was murdered on the grounds that his shirt was torn in a scuffle that took place before his death. What was strange was that though Ram Singh shared his cell with three other inmates, it was the jail guards who found his body. Reports added that Singh had severely injured both his arms in an incident in 2009.

Sharma's attempted suicide has once again raised questions about the security arrangements in place for the inmates of Tihar jail. One of the largest prison complexes in South Asia, Tihar is overcrowded A Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report said that the prison population is double the permitted limit and is severely understaffed, reported The Indian Express in 2015. The report added that the ratio between prison guards and inmates was "1:11 and 1:14 against the ideal ratio of 1:6."

Apart from poor medical facilities and inadequate number of hospital beds, there are no CCTV cameras inside the individual cells, though cameras are installed throughout Tihar.

"I know he (Ram Singh) had a few complaints of jail authorities torturing him, but nothing that would make him take his own life. We can't rule out foul play," Singh's lawyer VK Anand told Reuters in 2013.

Sushil Kumar Shinde, who was the Home Minister then, had called the incident a "major lapse" in security.

These are not isolated incidents as gang wars and deaths due to violence inside Tihar have been reported in the past. According to The Hindu, "five deaths including a murder" was reported within a fortnight in September 2014.

The death of ‘Biscuit King’ Rajan Pillai in 1995, who died due to medical negligence, was one of the first such cases which revealed the lack of infrastructure and mismanagement in Tihar. The Delhi High Court which granted Rs 10 lakh compensation to Pillai's family, had observed: The non-availability of specialist doctors on call coupled with the inability to promptly refer Rajan Pillai for treatment to a hospital nearby, the failure to have a properly equipped ambulance, the failure of the doctors to correctly diagnose the problem and treat it, were the factors that cumulatively caused the death of Rajan Pillai. 

On 16 March this year, an undertrial prisoner, facing charges of dowry harassment and abetment of suicide of his wife, hanged himself to death at Tihar prison complex. Police said that he was found missing after morning prayer and after a search during breakfast time, his body was found hanging at the toilet block of Mulahiza ward where counseling is given to the prisoners.

Despite assurances in the past to upgrade the infrastructure and medical facilities, security of Tihar inmates has remained a concern.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Aug 25, 2016 15:12:43 IST

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