In Tamil Nadu, Chennai Puzhal, Vellore, Salem, Cuddalore, Tiruchi, Madurai, Palayamkottai have prisons for men. Heading the state prisons is Additional Director General of Police and under him several Deputy Inspector Generals, as well as superintendents, additional superintendents and jailors operate and secure the prisons.
In 2007, DMK’s Tiruvarur district secretary Poondi Kalaichelvam was murdered and the plan for the murder was allegedly hatched in a jail. After that, intelligence and vigilance officials have been tasked with the job keeping tabs on prisoners as well as prison officials. This monitoring continues to this day.
When the central jail was near the Central railway station, in 1999, Boxer Vadivelu, a gang leader from North Chennai, was mysteriously murdered. Following this, there was a massive prison riot and a prison official, Jayakumar was murdered by prisoners. In the firing by the police that happened during the riot, some 10 people died and more than a hundred were injured.
In 2006, the modern Puzhal Prison started functioning. In this, undertrials, convicts, women, juvenile prisoners are kept in separate facilities. Detenu held under the National Security Act and Goondas Act and undertrials are lodged in Puzhal II. Recently, however, those held under preventive measures were moved to the convicts facility of Puzhal – I.
Undertrials such as Police Fakhruddin, Panna Ismail, Bilal Malik have also been lodged here under solitary confinement. Patients, the mentally unsound, first class prisoners and others have separate blocks. Prison officials such as deputy jailors, assistant jailors, chief head warders, first grade warders, warders and hundreds of officials keep a watch. Intelligence and vigilance officials also monitor the cells.
CCTV cameras have been fitted everywhere. Experts like psychologists, social workers and welfare officers too work here. It is in a prison with such infrastructure that Boxer Murali has been murdered.
Boxer Murali has several pending cases against him. He was recently arrested under Goondas Act and kept under preventive detention. Weapons like sickles were used to kill him, prison sources say, adding that the murder was so cold-blooded and cruel that his genitals were mutilated. In June, just two weeks ago, Vijay who was being investigated murdered his co-prisoner Ramesh by smashing a stone on his head. The talk in gangland is that Murali’s murder was orchestrated by Chennai’s mafia don Nagendran.
(The author of the article is a lawyer practising at the Madras High Court)