Large French windows that reach the ceiling, a toilet and shower with round-the-clock water supply, stunning white walls with a fresh coat of paint, fans, lights and cushioned cots — this is no ad for a high-end studio apartment but the facilities inside the 300sqft jail cell at Mumbai’s Arthur Road prison, where Nirav Modi and Vijay Mallya are likely to spend their time if extradited to India.
On Wednesday, just as the UK High Court rejected diamond merchant Nirav Modi’s bail plea for the fourth time, top jail officials in Mumbai were conducting a final inspection of a “fully-equipped” cell at Arthur Road jail which would house him.
Nirav Modi is accused of fraud and money-laundering in the Rs14,000-crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) case. He has been in London’s Wandsworth jail since March this year; India has been pushing to bring him back.
A top source in the prisons department told HT a “thorough inspection” of Cell no. 2 in barrack 12 was done by Deepak Pandey, the Inspector-General, Prisons, and a team of high-ranking prison officials, on Wednesday. “The inspection was meant to ensure all boarding and security arrangements in the cell are in place,” the official said. Pandey confirmed: “It’s a fully-equipped, secure prison cell with facilities similar to a studio apartment.”
Barrack 12 was recently refurbished. It is the first of two similar blocks. The construction of the other two will begin soon. The cells in these blocks are meant for under-trials only. The new complex falls in the high-security zone of the prison and is away from the main building.
The barrack is ground-plus-one structure, with two cells each on the ground and first floors. Cell no.2 is on the first floor. Peter Mukerjea, accused in the Sheena Bora murder case is in one of the ground-floor cells; Abu Jundal, the 26/11 handler, is reportedly in solitary confinement in the other cell on the first floor.
Each cell is meant to be shared by three inmates, but sources said Cell no. 2 will only house Nirav Modi and Vijay Mallaya — whose extradition case is also in progress in a London court. “While each of these cells is meant to be shared by three inmates, we have decided to restrict the number of inmates in Cell no.2 to just Nirav Modi and Vijay Mallya,” the official added.
CCTV cameras have been installed in the cell, not only to watch the inmates 24×7, but to also be used for video-conferencing, if the courts ask for it. Provisions for home food, or jail staple, would be decided by the court, if and when Nirav Modi is repatriated.
First Published: Jun 15, 2019 04:09 IST