THE MUMBAI Police Crime Branch investigating the alleged murder of Byculla jail inmate Manjula Shetye has not found any evidence of prison guards sexually assaulting her in the CCTV footage received from the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL). The Crime Branch had written to the FSL seeking specific footage from the CCTV cameras at the Byculla prison for preliminary investigations.
The footage from two channels of cameras inside the prison – vital to the probe since it covers the area where the incident took place – does not show any instance of sexual assault as alleged by Shetye’s cell mate Maryam Shaikh, an officer claimed. The CCTV camera footage provided so far, however, does not cover the entire prison premises.
An officer linked to the probe said, “Normally FSL extracts the entire footage from a hard disk and sends it to us after confirming if it is genuine. However, in this case, we sent them a letter asking for footage from June 23 and June 24 on an urgent basis.” While the CCTV and hard disks were damaged, the FSL managed to get a mirror image and sent the footage asked by the Crime Branch.
“We went through the footage from two camera channels of the Network Video Recorder (NVR) of the prison provided by FSL. No sexual assault is seen in any of the footage so far,” said the officer, who didn’t wish to be named. The officer said the footage establishes the role of the six accused jailors but declined to provide details.
A senior Crime Branch officer said, “The entire prison area is not covered by CCTV cameras. Also, currently we have just got a preliminary report. We are awaiting the final report from FSL that will include a certified copy of the entire CCTV footage. As of now, it would be too early to rule out anything.” Shetye’s cell mate Shaikh, based on whose statement an FIR was registered at the Nagpada police station, had said that Shetye was assaulted and later taken to her own barracks, with the jail guards dragging her by the hair.
She had also alleged that the six guards had also inserted a stick inside her private parts. In the FIR registered at the Nagpada police station, the police had not added provisions relating to sexual assault. Later, the postmortem report of Shetye did not point to any injuries to her private parts. The police had been relying on the CCTV footage to see if any sexual assault was captured.
A senior officer said, “Currently, we are in the process of recording the statements of the inmates. We are also verifying if the guards had called up anyone outside the prison in the time between Shetye was admitted to the hospital and when she died. It seems that trouble was brewing up between Shetye and the prison guards and what happened on June 22 was just the trigger. We are trying to get to the root of the issue.”
The incident took place between June 23 and 24 when Shetye was allegedly beaten to death by six prison guards. Nearly 291 Byculla prison inmates then started protesting, and moved to prison terrace after breaking the lock and lit a bonfire inside the prison. Later, the Nagpada police registered a case of murder against the six jail guards and a case of rioting against the prison inmates. The murder case was transferred to the Mumbai Crime Branch, which now has the custody of the six accused.