• kewal sethi

debt prisons

debt prisons

(written in 2015)

i have always wondered  if it can be explained for what crime sahara chief is in prison for over a year.. he has to pay back certain amounts according to the court. nobody has claimed  the amount and got a decree against him for payment. there may be benami transactions he can certainly be tried for these if there is a fir (even suo moto) in a proper court , tried and sentenced to whatever period is appropriate. but to hold him till he deposits the amount with the court is neither here nor there.

 it can be classified as debt payable to unknown persons. but this takes us into another realm.

 there used to be debt courts in seventeenth century in uk which charles dickens had written about. his father was in one. wikipedia writes about them in the following terms –

 "Run privately for profit, as were all English prisons until the 19th century, the Marshalsea looked like an Oxbridge college and functioned as an extortion racket. Debtors in the 18th century who could afford the prison fees had access to a bar, shop and restaurant, and retained the crucial privilege of being allowed out during the day, which gave them a chance to earn money for their creditors. Everyone else was crammed into one of nine small rooms with dozens of others, possibly for years for the most modest of debts, which increased as unpaid prison fees accumulated. The poorest faced starvation and, if they crossed the jailers, torture with skullcaps and thumbscrews. A parliamentary committee reported in 1729 that 300 inmates had starved to death within a three-month period, and that eight to ten were dying every 24 hours in the warmer weather.

The prison became known around the world in the 19th century through the writing of the English novelist Charles Dickens, whose father was sent there in 1824, when Dickens was 12, for a debt to a baker. Forced as a result to leave school to work in a factory, Dickens based several of his characters on his experience, most notably Amy Dorrit, whose father is in the Marshalsea for debts so complex no one can fathom  how to get him out."

the situation in prisons presently is not that bad (even for the poor).. in fact, with televisions (and mobiles illegally held) and movies and drama and games and all that, it is a free hotel, the only restriction being that you cannot leave when you like. (with sanjay dutt, that can also be managed). but still the question remains why is he there?

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