MUMBAI: Why are foreigners in prison served bread, butter and eggs, while their Indian counterparts are not provided with any non-vegetarian food? The Bombay high court raised this query on Thursday, rapping the prison authorities for adopting this discriminatory attitude. “When you can consider the tastes of a foreigner, why cannot you show the same consideration to Indian prisoners?” a division bench of Justice Bilal Nazki and Justice A R Joshi asked while hearing a petition filed by six 1993 blasts convicts lodged in Aurangabad Central prison; they had challenged the 2008 ban on non-vegetarian food in prison canteens.
Prison authorities, in their affidavit, said foreign prisoners were exempted from normal jail food (dal-roti-chawal) and allowed a different diet on recommendation of the prison medical officer. Public prosecutor P A Pol told the court that foreigners were served “bread, butter and eggs” in prisons. Pol said foreigners were not used to “eating chappatis” when he was asked the reason for the special diet.
“All Indians do not eat the same kind of food,” the judges said. “Please revise your rules and make room for every taste.”
The court also admonished the authorities for the affidavit, which said providing non-veg food would make the sentence less stringent or simple. Deputy inspector-general of prisons Ashok Patil, who had filed the affidavit, tried to pass the buck and said the statement was the view of the committee headed by the inspector-general of prisons.
“Which rule says jailers have to make the life of prisoners miserable?” the court asked. “Jail officers should be trained or they do not have a place as reformers.”
Patil had also told the court that the population in prisons was multi-religious and multi-cultural and, therefore, providing meat had sometimes created tension because of rumours that the meat was either of cow or pork. Therefore, it was “very dangerous to provide meat to prisoners”, he added.
The next hearing is slated for September 14.
Shibu Thomas, TNN 11 September 2009