The court of special judge Vikas Dhull reserved its order on Jain’s complaint that for the past 12 days, the prison administration had stopped providing him with the basic food items as per his religious beliefs, including fruit, while also delaying his medical check-up, including MRI scans, due since October 21. The court is now likely to pronounce the order on Friday.
Opposing the contention of Jain, Tihar’s counsel, advocate Abhijit Shankar, told the court that the jail did not ‘provide food’ but that the prisoners had to buy their meal at the jail canteen using their smart cards. Shankar claimed in the court that Jain had stopped buying food and restricting himself to two meals a day.
The counsel said the minister hadn’t informed the prison administration about the fast he was observing “in accordance with his religious belief”. He said Jain had been regularly buying vegetables, fruits, salad, namkeen, biscuit, mineral water, bread pakoda, chocolate, wafers, peanut butter, tea bags and milk from the canteen.
The jail administration argued that a conjoint reading of Delhi Prison Rules, 2018, nowhere determines that a fast by an inmate can go on for an indefinite period. The reply also added that the rules talk about a religious fast, not a wilful fast by a person.
The superintendent of Jail No 7, where the minister is lodged, stated in his reply to the court that Jain hadn’t been partaking of cooked food or cereals since his admission in jail of his own choice. He has only been taking salads and fruits. On October 11, the jail medical officer recommended 50 grams of almonds, 50 grams of seeds, two dates and two pieces of walnut per day for Jain and then on November 11, advised Jain to have normal food, two tablespoons of protein powder daily with milk and to stop having dry fruits.
The court asked the jail administration about the protocol for providing special food if an inmate informed it of being from a particular religion and requiring a particular kind of food. The jail counsel responded that the inmate could take fruit and vegetables from the canteen. The superintendent added, “It is wrong to expect the prison department to give special treatment to an inmate because the jail provides nutritional and balanced diet to all inmates without any discrimination on the basis of caste, creed or sex. ”
On Jain’s behalf, his counsel, senior advocate Rahul Mehra, opposed the contention of the jail administration, saying that religion couldn’t be dictated by the state. “The state is nobody to tell me anything. My religion is my religion,” he said.
On Jain’s behalf, Mehra also said, “The entire machinery is working against me to deprive me of basic food. I am not even consuming basic food. ”
On the request of Mehra to restrain the media from airing leaked footage from inside the jail cell of the minister, the court said it couldn’t pass an ex-parte injunction on the matter. Following this, Jain withdrew the application seeking directions to restrain the jail administration from leaking CCTV footage to the media that he had moved on Wednesday. Jain is likely to move Delhi High Court on the matter. The prison authorities have also launched an inquiry into Jain “irregularly” using the canteen smartcard issued to another inmate and appropriate action will be taken.