Why Mumbai's Arthur Road Jail Is Important In The Nirav Modi Case

The Arthur Road Jail, one of the oldest in India, has housed several high-profile inmates.

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After a UK court ruled in favour of extraditing fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi, the Arthur Road Jail in Central Mumbai has said that it is "ready to lodge him".

The Jail has formed a central part of Modi's extradition procedure, with his lawyers claiming in court that the prison is a "an old-fashioned sweatbox", to escape extradition.

The Jail, built in 1925, is one of the oldest jails in the country and has housed many high-profile visitors. Here's a primer of what Modi said about the prison during his extradition trials, its former and present residents, living conditions, and also its long history.


What Did Nirav Modi's Lawyers Say About Arthur Road Jail?

During his extradition trial at the Westminster Magistrate's Court in UK, Nirav Modi's lawyers said that the conditions in the jail that has been assigned for him are "inhumane".

"The building is made of stone, shielded in a steel structure, and is a veritable oven", said Modi's lawyers in court, in September 2020.

The lawyers further submitted that in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the jail was very overcrowded. According to a report by The Indian Express, the jail, which has a capacity of about 800, houses prisoners to the tune of 3,000 and above at certain times.

A similar plea was also made during the extradition trial of liquor baron Vijay Mallya in 2018. He had complained that the prison had "no natural light" and that it would violate his human rights to keep him there.

In Modi's case, the Maharashtra prisons department, in 2019, shared with the Centre a status report of the facilities available to lodge Modi.

The state government also submitted a letter of assurance to the Centre about the facilities they can provide inside the prison, further assuring that Modi will be kept in a jail where inmates will be a few.

Both Modi and Mallya have been assigned to be housed in Barrack no. 12 of the Arthur Road Jail, a high security barrack with additional facilities compared to the rest of the jail, It is meant for high profile and VIP inmates.


What is Barack No. 12?

Barrack number 12 of the Arthur Road Jail is a ground-plus-one structure, housing eight cells on each floor. Each cell is equipped with an attached western-style bathroom, mattress, pillow and bedsheets along with melamine crockery. Additionally, there's also a plasma TV set.

During both Modi and Mallya's trials, the prison authorities had submitted videos to show that these standard conditions as well as natural light prevailed in the jail.

Barrack 12 is also separate from the other, largely overcrowded parts of the jail.

"Nirav Modi is likely to get three square meters of personal space, where a cotton mat, pillow, bed sheet and blanket will be provided", an official at the Arthur Road Jail, told NDTV.

High-profile inmates of this barrack, in the recent past, have included Star India CEO Peter Mukerjea, NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal and his nephew, Samir.

Other inmates include Vipul Ambani, accused in the Punjab National scam, and HDIL promoters Rakesh and Sarang Wadhawan, accused inthe PMC fraud case.


The History Of Arthur Road Jail

The Arthur Road Jail, officially known now as the Mumbai Central Jail, was built in 1925-26 by the British. The road on which it was built was named Arthur Road after Sir George Arthur, who was the Governor of Bombay from 1842-46, reports IE.

The road was renamed in the 1970s to Sane Guruji Marg. However, the name Arthur Road stuck to the prison, and it continues to be called so in popular parlance.

Apart from the ones mentioned above, the jail has famously housed Abu Salem, Arun Gawli, Sanjay Dutt, Mustafa Dossa, and of course, the only living attacker in the 26/11 terrorist attacks, Ajmal Kasab.

It is reportedly spread over six acres with 20 barracks, and cells within them.

There are also high-security barracks called “anda cells” for their oval shape resembling an egg.


Conditions At Arthur Road Jail

The prison is known to be one of the most overcrowded prisons in the country with prisoners complaining that they are forced to sleep on one side due to lack of space.

The jail primarily houses undertrials and is a preferred jail due to its proximity to the Mumbai city civil and district courts.

Prisoners in the jail have often complained of corruption and gang wars within the cell and privilege accorded to prisoners on the basis of their financial status outside.

The Indian Express reports state that some prisoners maintain lifestyles that cost lakhs. The hierarchy of undertrials is set on similar grounds, with those with more privileges doing better work and getting better space in the prison. Those lower in the hierarchy are made to clean toilets and sleep near their door.

The jail has also seen gang wars. In 2010, gangster Abu Salem was attacked by his co-accused in the 1993 serial blasts case, Mustafa Dossa. Dossa slashed Salem's face with a sharpened spoon. The two were sent to separate prisons after the incident.

In 2006, one inmate died after a fight broke out between rival groups belonging to the Dawood Ibrahim and Chhota Rajan gangs.

In order to avoid such incident, the jail authorities have now started housing enemy gangs in separate areas of the jail.

(With inputs from Indian Express, NDTV)

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Topics:  Arthur Road Jail   Nirav modi 

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