Almost 16 years after biscuit baron Rajan Pillai died in Tihar jail, allegedly due to the negligence of jail officials and doctors, the Delhi high court on Friday awarded a compensation of Rs10 lakh to his wife as damages.
While awarding the compensation, Justice S Muralidhar slammed the Delhi government for its poor management of Tihar Jail. He said: “He [Rajan] was kept in deplorable conditions without any access to proper medical treatment, leading to a rapid deterioration of his health. An incorrect diagnosis by the medical staff at the jail led to the administration of drugs which were not appropriate to his medical condition.”
“The basic minimum right to life and dignity should be available to every prisoner. When that minimum standard is breached, the principle of strict liability should be invoked against the jail authorities, making them answerable to law for the consequences of such a breach,” the court said.
Besides compensation from the state, the court also demanded large-scale prison reforms in Tihar jail. “The government will, within a period of three months, purchase for exclusive use by the Tihar jail an ambulance comparable with the best available in the country with a team of dedicated medical personnel and trained staff,” the court said.
In 2005, the court had admitted a writ petition by Pillai’s wife Nina, who had sought compensation from the state for his custodial death in July 1995. According to her, the compensation would be utilised solely for rehabilitating women whose husbands have been victims of similar custodial deaths in the country.