Sexual abuse, torture, sleep deprivation, involuntary confinement, violence and denial of food and water. Just another day at an Abu Gharib-type prison, you would say. Think again. If reports are to be believed, Delhi’s drug de-addiction centres can give any notorious prison of the world stiff competition in terms of sub-human living conditions.
The descriptive torture trial forms part of an inspection report submitted by Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA) to the Delhi High Court regarding the conditions of inmates in these rehabilitation centres.
According to a report by The Indian Express, the report- submitted on June 1- stated that the inmates are reportedly asked to perform sexual favours, put through sexual and physical torture, treated as slaves, not allowed to contact their families and even led to their deaths due to torture or wrong treatment.
Early last month, the court had directed DSLSA to conduct these inspections while hearing writ petitions on “unregulated” de-addiction centres.
‘Violation of basic human dignity’
Following the submission of report, the High Court said: “The right of basic human dignity of persons desperately in need of care and treatment is being violated with impunity.”
The DSLSA inspected 124 de-addiction centres, out of which 28 were found shut. In the remaining 96 centres, the authority interacted with 2,135 inmates — 750 said they were detained involuntarily, said the report.
According to Hindustan Times, a bench of Justice S Muralidhar and Justice IS Mehta described the revelations as “most shocking” and said the “right to basic human dignity of persons desperately in need of care and treatment is being violated with impunity”. It further said that such incidents have to be stopped immediately.
The bench also observed that it cannot countenance keeping persons incarcerated in such inhumane conditions under the pretext of treatment for de-addiction.
The Indian Express quoted official sources as saying that an inter-sectoral coordination committee, under the Delhi government’s Health and Family Welfare department, is “in the process of notifying minimum standards” for running such centres.
Threats for conducting investigations
Sanjiv Jain, member secretary, DSLSA, further stated in the report that, “At some of the centres, the teams constituted by DSLSAs faced security threats and even had to seek police protection to be able to carry out the inspections”.
“In many of these centres, inmates were forced to sleep on the mattress instead of beds. In others, inmates were forced to do menial tasks and if they failed their rations were cut. Many centres failed miserably on the hygienic scale”, Newsbytes quoted the report as saying.
The bench has ordered Delhi Police to act on the report. “The Delhi Police will proceed in accordance of the law against the centres where such inmates have been subjected to inhumane treatment,” the court said.
Some key findings
The inmates were “mercilessly beaten” with sticks and faced “abusive filthy language”. “The owner and some of the staff seek sexual favours from the inmates,” said the report adding that there were instances of “physical and sexual torture”, the report stated on findings at Suryakiran Foundation, a drug de-addiction center in Madanpur Khadar.
The report also mentioned another rehabilitation center, Sharan Nasha Mukti Kendra stating, “the centre was poorly maintained, with insufficient space. The inmates were subjected to beating and torture. Danda (stick) was also found under the bed and the centre is just like a prison and the inmates are locked inside for the day and night.”
A report by The Hindu earlier this month carried a story of a 29-year-old man at a drug de-addiction center who was allegedly beaten to death by a caretaker and two others, for defecating in open at the centre.
The court has fixed July 12 as the next date of hearing to review the situation.
(Written by Arnabjit Sur)