GUWAHATI: The prison authorities in India are setting up a new block of cells in Arthur Road jail which will meet global standards on prisoner rights.
Notably, Vijay Vittal Mallya, an Indian Konkani businessman and former politician who is the subject of an extradition effort by the Indian Government to return him to India from the UK to face charges of financial crimes termed the prisons in India as quite pathetic.
As a part of the renovation, an old ground-plus-one structure within the 93-year-old jail in the heart of Mumbai will be demolished to make way for the block with about a dozen cells and toilets spread over the ground and first floors.
In this regard, an official of the Arthur Road jail said they expect the building to be ready in six months and house fugitive millionaires who could be brought back to face trials in frauds.
As such, the Arthur Road jail cells will meet European and UK prison standards besides fulfilling all human rights criteria. Presently, the public works department has already started work and received quotations for demolition of the building, an Arthur Road jail official said.
Till date, the Arthur Road jail has limited cells that meet global standards. Hence, these modern cells will be for the extradition of smugglers, fraudsters and accused hiding abroad.
Notably, the new building is being planned as a final solution to a trend among fugitive businessmen to cite ‘poor jail conditions’ as an excuse to oppose extradition to India.
Moreover, for the moment, some of the facilities that have housed high profile prisoners at Arthur Road jail have been refurbished and videos of those facilities with fans, TV, and commode with water jets have been shared with UK courts hearing the Mallya extradition case.
It was also apprised that there will only be a specific number of prisoners in these new cells. Hence, in these new buildings, the high profile prisoners can have cleanliness, hygienic toilets, enough sun and light and space to move around.
It must be mention here that the Arthur Road jail is chronically overcrowded with few facilities for prisoners’ well-being like almost all Indian jails. Built for some 800 prisoners, at any given time it houses around 2,800.
The CBI and ED are trying to bring back diamantaires Nirov Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi, accused of fraud worth almost Rs 13,000 crore using letters of undertaking issued by Punjab National Bank besides Mallya, whose Kingfisher Airlines is accused of defaulting on loans worth over Rs 9,000 crore,
Notably, as far as the fight for these fugitives will play out in foreign courts, global human rights standards including rules that apply to imprisonment, rights of detainees, condition of jails, etc will have to be met. In UK jails, for instance, prisoners are entitled to protection from bullying and racial harassment, healthcare on a par with other citizens, and outing for up to an hour in open air every day.