Madras Central Prison

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Madras Central Prison
Chennai Central jail.jpg
A section of the Madras Central Prison before demolition in 2009
LocationChennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Coordinates13°04′47″N 80°16′22″E / 13.07974°N 80.272915°E / 13.07974; 80.272915

Madras Central Prison was one of the oldest prisons in India. It was located in Chennai (formerly Madras) in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It began operational during the British rule in India in 1837. Prisoners from the prison were moved to the newly constructed Puzhal Central Prison starting in 2006.[1] The prison was 172 years old when it was demolished in June 2009.


Madras Central Prison was one of the oldest prisons in India. It was started during British rule in 1837. It was initially called the Madras penitentiary until 1855 when it was renamed to Central Jail.[2] It was originally built to house transit convicts who were to face the 'sazaye kaala paani' in Cellular Jail in Andaman and Nicobar Islands and constructed at the cost of Rs 16,496 on 11 acres (45,000 m2) of land.[3]

It is said that the call for independence found its echo more in the Madras Presidency than elsewhere in the princely States. Many of those freedom fighters were arrested and lodged here; it is said a few of them died in custody.[4]

There were 1,778 prisoners in the prison as of January 2002, of which 500 required to be produced in different courts in Chennai and mofussil (rural) areas including Tiruchi, Madurai, Coimbatore and Tirunelveli.[5]

Notable prisoners[edit]

Abandoned corridors of the Madras Central Prison pictured in 2009

The prison housed Subhas Chandra Bose and Veer Savarkar during the days of independence movement. C. N. Annadurai, former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and leader of Dravidian Movement was housed here for his Anti Hindi agitations.[4] The prison also housed former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, M. Karunanidhi and chief minister of Tamil Nadu J. Jayalalitha.[6] Also, several international figures, including LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran and Maoist leader of Nepal, Chandra Prakash Gajurel, were imprisoned here.[4]

1999 riots[edit]

In 1999, some of the inmates in the prison went on a rampage against the officials following the death of an inmate named Boxer Vadivelu. They set fire to a room where the assistant warder had taken refuge. Riot police were called in to contain the riots. The police initially used tear gas to quell the rioters, before resorting to live ammunition. In the battle which ensued between the inmates and the riot police, 10 people including a prison official were killed and more than 100 people injured.[7]


The Madras Central prisoners were relocated to Puzhal Central Prison in Puzhal in 2006 and the vacant property was handed over to Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL) for revenue augmentation purpose in 2008. The cost of the 13-acre (53,000 m2) land was estimated conservatively at Rs. 4.75 billion.[8] Demolition of the buildings began on 14 June 2009.[9]

New buildings for Madras Medical College[edit]

In 2010, a new campus with a six-storeyed building for Madras Medical College was built on a land covering 325,000 sq ft on the prison premises and was completed in 2012 at a cost of 566.3 million. The campus will have nearly 1,250 students and 400 faculty and staff members.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "150-yr-old Central prison closed for good". Times of India. 19 January 2009. Retrieved 26 June 2009.
  2. ^ "Prison building demolition proposal forwarded to government". The Hindu. 20 January 2009. Retrieved 26 June 2009.
  3. ^ "Chennai set to lose a slice of its history". Express Buzz. 20 June 2009. Retrieved 26 June 2009.
  4. ^ a b c "After 172 years, Madras Central Prison sent to the gallows". Indian Express. 18 February 2009. Retrieved 26 June 2009.
  5. ^ Subramani, A. (20 January 2002). "Chennai Central Prison officials in a fix". The Hindu. Chennai: The Hindu. Retrieved 14 November 2012.
  6. ^ "Central prison to become history". Deccan Chronicle. 20 January 2009. Retrieved 26 June 2009.
  7. ^ "Inquiry into Madras prison riot". BBC News. BBC. 18 November 1999. Retrieved 26 June 2009.
  8. ^ "Chennai Metro Rail Ltd to develop prison land near Park Station". The Hindu. 28 February 2008. Retrieved 26 June 2009.
  9. ^ "Demolition of Central Jail begins". Dina Mani. 17 June 2009. Retrieved 26 June 2009.
  10. ^ Lakshmi, K. (29 May 2013). "Skywalk between GH, new MMC campus proposed for easy connectivity". The Hindu. Chennai: The Hindu. Retrieved 30 June 2013.