'Even Crorepatis Can't': Tihar Jail's Ex-Legal Advisor on Satyendar Jain Massage

To understand the legality around the controversy, The Quint spoke to Sunil Gupta, ex-legal advisor of Tihar jail.

4 min read

"Massagegate" continues to hit the headlines even a day after Delhi Minister Satyendar Jain filed an official complaint in court about the lack of adequate food in Tihar Jail, where he has been lodged over a money laundering case.

Things had started to heat up over the weekend when in separate press conferences, leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the AAP (Aam Aadmi Party) lashed out at each other over a viral CCTV (closed-circuit television) video showing the former minister of the Delhi government receiving a full body massage from someone who it was later revealed to be a man accused of raping his own daughter.

The accused has been charged with Protection Of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), and is awaiting trial.

In the press conferences, while the BJP's Gaurav Bhatia accused the AAP of promoting 'VVIP culture', the latter's Manish Sisodia asserted that every prisoner has a right to medical treatment if need be. You can watch the full face-off here.

But there is more. The latest leaked CCTV footage shows Jain eating salad, fruits and food from plastic containers, which has led to a continuation of the uproar around the controversy surrounding his special treatment in jail.

To understand more about the legality of Jain's access to massages and home-cooked food in his prison cell, The Quint spoke to Sunil Gupta, former spokesperson and legal advisor of Tihar jail. Here is what he said.


Can Fellow Inmates Give Massages to Each Other?

Gupta explains that there is nothing in the jail manual that allows that inmates to give massages to each other under the garb of 'physiotherapy'.

"Talking about physiotherapy in particular, it is always done in a room that is designated for it. Also, it is conducted by professionals with the necessary equipment. By law, it is never done in a cell."

But Don't Inmates Do Labor Work in Prison?

The labor work that prisoners engage in, Gupta explained, is very different from providing massages and other favors to influential inmates. There are specific rules regarding this provided in the manual.

For instance, in Chapter VII, titled Employment of Prisoners, clause 35 reads, "A criminal prisoner desiring to be employed on labour, may be employed with the permission of the Supt subject to such restrictions as may be prescribed in the rules made under this Act."

But nowhere in the manual does labour work include giving medical treatment or physiotherapy to fellow inmates. That task is restricted to doctors and medical officers, who have strict instructions in the manual about how to go about their job.


What Else is Illegal About it? 

"What I find bizarre," Gupta said, "is that the prisoners who were giving Jain these favours reportedly came from different wards. Going outside of your wards without permission is just not permitted, and the manual has this crystal clear."

Indeed, clause 16 of the manual, which comes under the chapter Guarding of Prisoners, reads, "Wandering about the sleeping barracks, at any time, is strictly prohibited. If the prisoner leaves his sleeping berth frequently, without any purpose whatsoever, the prison functionary on duty shall report the matter to the warder on duty who will, if he considers necessary, inform his superior about the same."


So, How Was it Allowed at All?

"There is definitely some complicity on behalf of Tihar Jail's officials," Gupta said.

He pointed out that Tihar Jail comes under the purview of the Delhi government, despite Delhi Police coming under the central government's jurisdiction. More importantly, Jain handled jails within his portfolio as a minister of the Delhi government.

At least four prison officials have reportedly been suspended due to this controversy.


Is Jain Allowed to Eat Home-Cooked Food?

Absolutely not, is what Gupta categorically said.

"Home-cooked food is completely banned in prison. In fact, even packed food from outside is not allowed due to smuggling concerns. Even crorepatis can't do this."


How Could the CCTV Footage Be Leaked?

"This is another case of complicity within the Tihar staff, but this time orchestrated by parties seeking to get Jain in trouble," Gupta said.

He went on to explain that the room where the CCTV footage is stored is a very secure one.

"No prisoner or common guard can access the footage in order to leak it. It definitely looks like a well-planned scheme orchestrated by someone who has had help from within," he added.

"This is all political of course, with elections coming up in two states, especially in Gujarat where AAP has been on the rise," Gupta concluded.

On the same matter, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia pointed out over the weekend that a court had barred the CCTV video from being released to the media. "It was intentionally done to defame Jain," he alleged during a press conference.

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