Delhi minister Satyendar Jain cannot remain on a special religious fast perpetually, lawyers representing the Tihar jail told a Delhi court on Thursday, opposing the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) legal request to be allowed a special diet in keeping with his religious practices.
The issue relates to Jain’s request to be served food in a way consistent with his Jain community’s practices, a plea that has cited section of the Prisons rule that allows under-trial inmates access to special diet while they fast for religious purpose.
Tihar authorities contended these fasts are for limited periods and Jain should instead purchase his fasting food like nuts, vegetables and fruits from the jail canteen.
“…under-trial prisoner (Jain) has opted to choose his own diet as per his liking instead of the regular jail meal which is not only balanced and equipped with all nutritional values but also palatable. The jail meal/diet is uniformly provided to all jail inmates except where there is any medical diet prescribed by the Medical officer,” the jail authorities said in their reply to the special judge Vikas Dhull.
The reply to Jain’s plea stated that as per general practice, fasts are observed for limited period of time or days, as is the case with the Hindu holy period of Navratras or the Muslim holy month of Ramzan.
Dhull reserved order for Friday.
“Any prisoner may purchase the items worth ₹7,000/- per month from the jail canteen except those debarred as a measure of punishment. It is apparent from the jail record that the UTP Satyendar Jain is regularly buying vegetable/salad/fruits/namkeen/biscuit/mineral,” the jail’s reply said.
The counsel also added that as per jail record, there is no request available with the office of the superintendent of Central Jail No 7, where Jain is held over charges of money laundering, that the minister told officials about observing fast in accordance with his religious belief.
On Wednesday, the court directed prison authorities to give Jain food given during religious fast under the prison rules.
Jain’s detention has become a source of political controversy after two videos leaked over the last week purported to show him getting massages from an inmate, and consuming food and being served in his cell. The videos prompted the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to seek Jain’s sacking, while Jain’s lawyers hit out at the leaks.
“The question of leaking CCTV footage in respect of UTP Satyendar Jain has nothing to do with the prison administration, GNCT of Delhi…it is submitted that an inquiry is being conducted by the high-level committee comprising of Principal Secretary (Home), Principal Secretary (Law) and Principal Secretary (Vigilance) into the matter of preferential treatment to the UTP Jain,” the prison administration said in its reply.
During the hearing, senior advocate Rahul Mehra, appearing for Jain, withdrew an application seeking to restrain media channels from showing the leaked videos. Mehra told the court that he would move the high court in this regard.