Punjab and Haryana High Court summons ADGP Prisons to explain gangster live interview from jail premises

It may be noted that Lawrence Bishnoi is a noted gangster-turned-terrorist booked under the Unlawful Activities Prevention (UAPA) Act.

ByAayush Goel

Published Nov 29, 2023 | 11:35 AMUpdatedNov 29, 2023 | 11:35 AM

Punjab and Haryana High Court. (Wikimedia Commons)

Taking stern cognisance and expressing dismay over slow progress in investigating the Lawrence Bishnoi interview in custody case the Punjab and Haryana High Court has summoned the Additional Director General of Prisons, Punjab, on 14 December to provide an explanation over the same.

During the hearing on Tuesday, 28 November, Punjab submitted affidavits stating that efforts are on to stop the smuggling of mobile phones in jails as well as their usage by inmates. The state also informed the court that the committee, which had been constituted to enquire into the incident of the recording and telecast of an interview by the suspect namely, Lawrence Bishnoi, would require some more time to submit its report.

This, however, was not enough to convince the court as amicus curiae Tanu Bedi raised concerns about the timeframe identified in the affidavits. Bedi noted that since the committee had narrowed down the potential period of the second interview between 26 February 2023 and 17 March 2023, it should not be difficult for it to find out where it was conducted.

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‘Not satisfied with the progress’

The Division Bench of Justices Anupinder Singh Grewal and Kirti Singh on hearing the matter stated, “The committee had been constituted on 29 March 2023, to enquire into the recording and telecast of the interview by a suspect in judicial/police custody. He was stated to be in judicial custody when the interview was telecast. Even after 8 months, the report has not been submitted by the committee. We are not satisfied with the progress in the enquiry and the explanation being offered for the delay in its conclusion.”

The Bench added, “We, therefore, direct the Additional Director General, Prisons, Punjab, to be present in court on the next date of hearing to explain why the report has not been submitted to date. He would also apprise the court about the measures taken by the prison authorities to stop the usage of mobile phones by the inmates and the calls for extortion.”

The Bench sought an explanation regarding how the guards posted at the watchtowers were oblivious to the articles being thrown over the boundary wall and successfully being retrieved by the inmates.

“How and when are the inmates rotated amongst the cells which have TVs and the ones without such a provision as has been stated and, moreover, when was the present petitioner (Lawrence Bishnoi) moved to such a cell along with the other inmates as seen in the video, and are all inmates regularly frisked after every court hearing and after the physical mulakats?” added the bench.

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Booked under UAPA

It may be noted that Bishnoi is a noted gangster-turned-terrorist booked under the Unlawful Activities Prevention (UAPA) Act. He is known to have links with various international and Pakistan-based narco-terrorist organisations like Babbar Khalsa International and is one of the accused in the Sidhu Moosewala murder case.

He has in the past issued life threats to many celebrities, including Bollywood actor Salman Khan. The Punjab Jail security and management had come under scanner after he was telecasted from the prison by a TV channel on 14 March and then on 18 March.