A DAY after her messages allegedly sympathising with the six jail staffers arrested in connection with the death of an inmate at Byculla prison went viral, Maharashtra DIG (Prisons) Swati Sathe requested to be recused from the inquiry entrusted to her. By Friday afternoon, Inspector General (IG) Rajvardhan Sinha was appointed to conduct the inquiry.
After the death of convict Manuja Shetye inside the Byculla prison on June 23, the department had asked Sathe to conduct a departmental enquiry. The mandate of the inquiry was to probe the circumstances that had led to the two incidents — Shetye’s death and the riots that ensued. On Thursday, Sathe on a group created on messenger service WhatsApp had posted a couple of messages, allegedly referring to the arrested accused as ‘sisters’ and requesting senior officials from the Prisons Cadre to provide monetary help for their bail.
Manuja Shetye (31) had been serving life term for the murder of her sister-in-law in Yerawada jail since 2005 , and had been recently shifted to Byculla prison. On June 23, she was allegedly assaulted by the jail staff after a brawl over distribution of eggs and bread, sparked by a complaint by other inmates to the jailor. The next day, after news of her death came in, the inmates lodged at the Byculla facility allegedly protested and caused a riot — burning files, breaking CCTV cameras and using kitchenware to attack the staff.
Six staffers, including jailor Manisha Pokharkar and guards Bindu Naikode, Waseema Shaikh, Sheetal Shegaokar, Surekha Gudve and Aarti Shingane, were suspended following the incident. Last week, the Mumbai Crime Branch arrested the six jail staffers for allegedly killing Shetye in custody. The Crime Branch is also probing the rioting case lodged against the 291 inmates, including undertrial Indrani Mukerjea.
While the six jail staffers have been booked for Shetye’s murder, another FIR has been registered against the 291 inmates on charges of riots and criminal conspiracy. Sathe had also deposed before the Maharashtra State Women’s Commission (MSWC), which has set up a three-member Special Investigation Team, to probe the two incidents. She had submitted a report to the MSWC, detailing the action taken by the Prisons Department against the staff and the case registered against the inmates who allegedly caused riot on the jail premises.The report also attached the findings of Shetye’s post-mortem report and the inquest panchanama drawn by the police. The inquest has ruled out sexual assault on Shetye.