The Mumbai Police Crime Branch has claimed that the role of the six Byculla jail guards arrested for the alleged murder of inmate Manjula Shetye is clear from the CCTV footage examined by state forensic experts. The Nagpada police station, which initially investigated the cases of murder and rioting, sent a damaged Digital Video Recorder to Kalina Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL), asking if footage from June 23 and 24 could be retrieved.
On Wednesday, the FSL sent a preliminary report to Unit 3 of the Crime Branch, which took over the probe last week, stating that part of the footage from June 23 had been recovered. In its application to the Esplanade Court on Friday seeking further custody of the women, the Crime Branch has said the FSL managed to retrieve a mirror image of the footage, in which their role was clear.
A mirror image of a CCTV footage is retrieved from a damaged DVR by using a video recovery software. “There are certain objectionable visuals in the footage that we need to interrogate the accused about,” said the Crime Branch. While arguing for police custody, assistant public prosecutor Rajendra Suryavanshi told the court: “Certain facts that have come to light that we cannot mention in our application. But we require custody of the accused to interrogate them.”
According to the FIR filed by the Nagpada police, Shetye was assaulted and later taken to her own barracks, with the jail guards dragging her by the hair. The Crime Branch also informed the court it had recorded statements of only six jail inmates so far, who claimed to have witnessed the assault. The investigating officer, Inspector Prabha Raul, told the court that it was because the Crime Branch was yet to receive permission from the prisons department to enter the Byculla Jail and record statements of other inmates. The Crime Branch also searched the homes of the arrested jail staffers and seized their uniforms and cell phones. However, they are yet to find a wooden lathi allegedly used to assault Shetye. The lathi is one of the things the accused need to be quizzed about, sources said.
The Crime Branch also said that the accused, who are being interrogated separately, and at times in each other’s presence, are not co-operating with the investigation. Advocate Pankaj Bafna, who is representing the guards, argued that his clients be remanded in judicial custody. “The Crime Branch has not shown any progress in investigation. They are yet to recover the wooden lathi,” he argued.
He also filed an application seeking permission for two of the women to meet their young children. “The children are at an age where they require mother’s milk,” he argued. The court remanded the women in police custody till July 14 and directed the Crime Branch to file its reply to Bafna’s application next week.