Accused says no masks left in Chandigarh Model Jail, consumer forum directs superintendent to investigate

A BENCH of the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission of Chandigarh on Wednesday this week +-pulled up senior officials from Model Jail, Chandigarh, after the suspect in one of the cases was produced in court without a mask on.

Terming it as a serious violation of Covid-19 guidelines of the administration, the bench also directed the superintendent of Model Jail to take action against erring prison officials for not providing a mask to the suspect. The commission also said that if there is a shortage of funds for buying masks, then the jail officials may contact the consumer forum and collect Rs 5000 to buy the same.

Contacted, the superintendent of Model Jail, Chandigarh, Virat, however, claimed that the suspect, Ravi Gambhir, had lied before the commission about a mask not being provided to him.

“The accused probably lied out of fear before the commission. We have provided two three-layered masks to every prisoner and there are enough masks available for replacement. There is no shortage of masks in the jail. Model jail, in fact, has been stitching and providing masks to GMCH-32, GH-16, municipal corporation, and other government departments since March 2020. We have produced approximately two lakh masks to date. All Covid protocols are strictly being adhered to at all times inside the jail compound. There may have been a lapse on part of the policeman on sentry duty who failed to check if or not the prisoner was wearing a mask when he left the prison complex.”

On Wednesday, the suspect Ravi Gambhir, had been produced before the commission in a case titled Santosh Vaid versus Ravi Gambhir. The case pertains to 2017 when the consumer commission had slapped a fine of Rs 15,000 on Gambhir and directed him to refund Rs 3.08 lakh to Vaid for failing to complete a plumbing work within the time promised.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Gambhir was produced before the commission by head constable of Chandigarh Police, Mandeep Singh, without a mask.

When the commission bench of Rajan Dewan (President), Priti Malhotra, and BM Sharma (members),
asked the Head Constable (HC) about the accused not wearing a mask, Singh told the court that the man had been handed over to them without a mask. The accused, Gambhir, however, cut in to say that there were no masks left in the jail, that is why he was without a mask.

On this, the commission said, “This is a clear cut violation of Covid-19 guidelines. The superintendent, Model Jail, Chandigarh is directed to take action against erring officials/officers under intimation to this commission for not providing a mask to the accused before producing him here as the wearing of a mask is mandatory in public spaces.”

“It is very strange that government departments are violating the mandatory provisions that have been put in place by the Centre. It is further directed that if there is a shortage of funds for buying masks then the jail officials may contact this commission and collect Rs 5000 to buy the masks or they can send their account number with IFSC code for making an online transfer of aforesaid amount”, read the commission order.

Meanwhile, the accused Gambhir on Wednesday neither furnished a personal bond nor a surety bond of his wife and was thus sent to judicial custody till July 20.

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