Minister’s largesse to prisoners: Jail of choice

Jaswinder Singh Baidwan

Akhran da mureed
Staff member
State Jail Minister Sohan Singh Thandal has stirred up a row for being “liberal” in issuing directions for the transfer of prisoners, including murderers and gangsters, to the jail of their choice.
Though most of his directions are followed, jail officials have refused to allow the transfer of an alleged notorious gangster, Sonu Kangla, for whom the minister was “quite persistent”. Kangla is an accused in the killing of another alleged gangster Sukha Kahlwa, who was killed near Phagwara early this year despite being in police custody on his way to the Nabha jail after a court hearing in Jalandhar. The minister requested his transfer twice from Nabha jail to Kapurthala jail at the request of Sonu’s mother.
The minister had also courted a controversy for restoring the job of a jail official in the Fazilka jail, where drugs were recovered in 2013. Though jail officials, had in a number of inquiries, indicted the official, Thandal overruled the probe reports and reportedly let off the official with a warning.
Thandal said he merely recommended the transfer and never insisted on it. “It is an established practice that we recommend such transfers but those are strictly on humanitarian grounds. As public representatives, we receive such applications and as the Jail Minister, I receive applications from other politicians and MLAs also. Though my remarks on the files sound like a directive, everybody knows that it is a recommendation only,” he said.
Documents with The Tribune revealed that the minister gave a directive on the application by family members of the inmates on transfer of jails. Instead of recommendation, the Jail Minister directed in Punjabi, “Jail badli kiti jawe” (The inmate should be transferred to the desired jail).
Though eyebrows over such “recommendations” were raised in the past, the flashpoint between the Jail Minister and officials came in the case of Sonu Kangla. The minister’s directive was denied on the grounds that the inmate was involved in brawls and regrouping of gangsters.
Documents revealed that the minister, after a one-day visit to the Nabha Security Jail, recommended the shifting of 12 inmates to other jails. Half of those were caught for drug smuggling.
Jail officials said the transfer of inmates was a legal and sensitive matter, for which report of CID, police, jail staff and permission of court (in some cases) was mandatory. “It can’t be done on a political directive only,” said an official.