There was an air of excitement among the prisoners of Tihar jail. Something interesting was going on and they couldn’t figure it out. At first they saw some men measuring the grounds where they exercised daily. Was it to build a badminton court? The committee for the amelioration of prisoners must have suggested it. No, not a court. A building?
Then they found it was to be a circular building. One prisoner suggested it could be a theatre where the prisoners would be shown films not only to entertain them but also to educate and reform them to help adjust to the outside world when freed. Every day the prisoners looked forward to what was happening on the grounds.
An architect from Australia took over as the building was coming up. It was a huge, circular theatre-like building and could seat about 500 easily. It was to be fully air-conditioned (Delhi is unbearably hot in summer). The security arrangements were humungous. Was it to protect those inside from outsiders or vice-versa?
Hope pervaded the hearts of all the inmates. The life servers hoped the improvements were being made for their benefit. They had made terrible mistakes, yes, but they were really not criminals. One said he had killed his wife in a drunken rage. He really loved her and he was not in his senses when he did it. Another said he was conned into leaving a cycle at a place. He never dreamt it contained an explosive. The real culprits were never caught. They told each other stories of how and why they were in jail.
They discussed the news about the criminality of politicians that was the latest news trickling into the jail. “Do you know”, said an inmate, “162 out of 543 members of the Lok Sabha have criminal charges against them? And that makes it about 30 per cent?” “A crime is a crime,” said another prisoner, “but crimes have been divided into serious and non-serious,” he laughed. “You can get elected if the crime is non-serious even if the sentence is for two years and you are sitting in Tihar jail. Out of 162 members who have criminal charges, 111 have serious charges. Only when the judiciary decides that the crimes are serious, they will be termed as criminals.”
Another prisoner scoffed, “But cases take a long time to be heard and so our Lok Sabha will be ruled by criminals.”
Yet another added, “There’s a rumour that the present Lok Sabha will introduce a bill and all parties will support it and it will be passed like the Food Security Bill and made into law. The new Bill will propose that even if one is a criminal facing serious charges and is in jail, he can stand for election and if he gets elected, he will be an MP or an MLA.”
This was heard with astonishment all around and there was an eerie silence until a small voice squeaked, “Now I know what the new circular building is for. It’s not at all for us. It’s for our legislators. It is Parliament House. And it’s going to function from Tihar jail!”