What was very striking about the documentary on Nirbhaya was the clothes that Mukesh Singh was wearing during the interview. He was in plain clothes and not in the jail uniform. [Nirbhaya, Mukesh 'Hannibal the Cannibal & the Great Indian hypocrisy]
This gives rise to two very important questions regarding the documentary. Was Singh an under trial prisoner when the interview was taken? Did he change into plain clothes for the interview. A Home Ministry official tells oneindia that this is being probed and either ways it is an offence.
Was he interviewed as an under trial:
Mukesh Singh was wearing a checked shirt when he was being interviewed. Plain clothes are worn inside the jail only when the prisoner is an under trial.
Nowhere in the jail manual of any state can permission be granted to anyone to interview an under-trial prisoner. In every jail manual of the country there is a section called as "Interviews." Under this section there is no specific mention of media interviews and it restricts itself to meeting friends and family.
However the section "interviews," can be broadly classified and permission can be granted to media houses, researchers or NGO's to conduct interviews of prisoners. The clause however is that an under trial cannot be interviewed as it would amount of sub-judice which could influence the fate of his case.
Now if Mukesh Singh was interviewed as an under-trial prisoner then it is a clear case of sub-judice. The person who has granted the permission, the interviewer and also the jail authorities can be hauled up for contempt of court.
Under no circumstance can an under trial prisoner be granted permission to speak with a media house, researcher or NGO. Only the family members, lawyers of the accused and friends are allowed to meet an under trial prisoner.
The dress code for a convict:
Once the trial court pronounces its verdict declaring a person a convict, he or she is immediately provided the jail uniform. The dress code is the same for all prisoners irrespective of the sentence.
Once the trial court pronounces its verdict and convicts a prisoner, he is immediately handed out two sets of the jail uniform which he is supposed to wear at all times. Even a death row convict is handed out the same uniform.
Barring the time when a convict is allowed to go out on parole, he is supposed to remain in the uniform at all times. The rules of the jail are extremely strict when it comes to the uniform and at no time is a prisoner supposed to be in plain clothes. Moreover once declared a convict, the belongings of the convict such as his clothes are taken away by the jail authorities and is given to him only at the time of his release.
It is quite surprising that Mukesh Singh was in plain clothes at the time of his interview. This raises two questions- whether he was allowed to wear plain clothes for the interview or was he an under trial prisoner.
Have norms been flouted?
It is the claim of the Mukesh Singh's legal team that the interview had been shot when he was not a convict. They allege that the interview amounts to sub-judice.
The interviewer claims that the interview was shot only after Singh had been convicted. However Singh's lawyer says that when she had interviewed him he had not been convicted.
Another important question is the hurry in which permission had been granted for the interview. In legal terms the case is very much pending. It is a case of a death sentence and an appeal is pending before the Supreme Court.
Such interviews could be fatal for either sides-prosecution and the convict. The prosecution could cite portions of the interview stating that the convict has shown no remorse and hence has made out a case for death penalty. The defence on the other hand can also argue that the video is being displayed to influence the mind of the court and hence coul seek a benefit of remission.