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CM’s jail term raises questions over governance from prison

CM’s jail term raises questions over governance from prison

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Tribune News Service

Aditi Tandon

New Delhi, April 1

With Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal moving to Tihar Jail after being sent to 14-day judicial custody in the alleged Delhi liquor scam case, focus is back on the challenge of governing the Capital from jail.

L-G can designate an area as jail

Under the Prisons Act, the Delhi L-G has the powers to designate an area as jail. This option was explored by the then L-G in 2000 when former PM PV Narasimha Rao was sentenced in the JMM bribery case.

Tihar conference room was declared special jail

In 2014, the SC had allowed Sahara group chief late Subrata Roy to use Tihar jail’s conference room for 10 days for talks with potential buyers of his luxury hotels that would enable him raise his bail money. The SC had permitted Roy to use the services of two secretaries and one technical staff and use a mobile phone, computer, desktop, laptop and printer. Roy was asked to pay for these services. Legal experts said Kejriwal could move a similar application.

Though the ruling Aam Aadmi Party continues to maintain that nothing in the law bars an undertrial CM from administering his government from behind bars, practical difficulties of such a move are immense.

Former public relations officer of Tihar Jail Sunil Gupta said on Monday that all rules would have to be bent to allow Kejriwal to administer the Delhi Government from Tihar Jail.

Flagging the challenges, Gupta said, “A CM needs personal staff and as of now none of Delhi’s central jails have the provision to allow that.”

The Capital has three prison complexes. The one at Tihar is one of the largest prison complexes in the world and houses nine central prisons. The second central jail is at Rohini, while the Mandoli complex has six central jails.

“None of the 16 central jails have a facility for staff which can allow a CM to run the government. All rules would need to be bent to allow such a thing. No one would permit the breaking of so many rules,” Gupta said, flagging a host of difficulties.

According to the jail manual, an undertrial is allowed visitations only by family and lawyers, twice a week. In such a scenario, it would be an uphill task for the CM to meet the chief secretary and other bureaucrats, sign official files, meet or even speak to the Lieutenant-Governor (L-G) and hold Cabinet meetings.

“The jail does not even have a telephone facility. Inmates are allowed to talk to families daily for five minutes and the conversations are recorded,” Gupta added. Meanwhile, the L-G House remains in a wait-and-watch mode on how Kejriwal proposes to function as CM from Tihar Jail. Official sources said a constitutional crisis in Delhi was palpable.

Sources also ruled out any instant review of the situation and said, “This matter has not been discussed yet. We will wait and watch.”

They said the AAP government in Delhi enjoyed a full mandate, with the only challenge being the CM’s arrest.

“If the CM nominates a replacement, everything would be solved,” said an official source.

It remains to be seen if Kejriwal would nominate wife Sunita to take his place in Delhi CMO, with evident attempts to build her public profile. She addressed her first political rally at the Ramlila Maidan on Sunday.

Today after Kejriwal was sent to Tihar, she said, “People will answer the dictatorship of the Centre.”

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#Arvind Kejriwal


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