INDRANI MUKERJEA on Wednesday informed the court that she was threatened by Byculla jail officials, including the superintendent of prison, after she came forward as a witness in the alleged murder of inmate Manjula Shetye.
Mukerjea, the main accused in the murder of her daughter Sheena Bora, has been booked for rioting with other inmates, who allegedly staged a protest after Shetye’s death on Saturday. On Tuesday, Mukerjea, through her advocate Gunjan Mangla, had sought permission from the court to come before it, claiming she had been assaulted by the prison staff. The court then directed the Byculla jail authorities to produce Mukerjea on Wednesday.
Mukerjea was brought before the special CBI court with a heavy security cover, with at least eight male and female police personnel escorting her. The police officer leading the escort party instructed all others to not allow Mukerjea to interact with any media person. On being asked how she was doing, Mukerjea replied “Still alive”.
Special CBI Judge J C Jagdale directed Mukerjea to step into the witness box, and she began to give details of the incident inside Byculla jail. “On Friday morning, one of our inmates was beaten and assaulted by Byculla jail officials. I witnessed some part of it. I had gone out to take my lunch and when I returned to my barrack on the ground floor, I saw Manjula being dragged with her saree around her neck by prison staff. Another prison constable was dragging her by her hair,” Mukerjea said.
She added that she later heard Manjula being assaulted, including a stick being inserted in her private parts. “We were in bandi (under lock inside the barrack), when I heard screams around 6.30 pm, calling ‘madam madam’. Then, I saw two prison staff members run out and then, one male prison officer and a doctor came into our wing. Manjula was taken outside the barrack to JJ Hospital,” Mukerjea said.
She said on the next day — Saturday — she asked the special guard on her duty about Manjula’s health. “The guard told me that Manjula was stable, but we later learnt that she had died. We all went out to ask what had happened to her. The prison staff kept the door and windows shut throughout the day. We demanded that a court judge be allowed inside so an FIR could be filed, but that was not allowed,” she said. Mukerjea said that she eventually managed to get in touch with her lawyer, who through his junior advocate helped file an FIR.
“It was after an FIR was registered that the superintendent instructed a lathi charge upon us. All the lights were turned off and we were lathi-charged by male officials, including the superintendent,” Mukerjea told the court. She showed bruise marks on her elbows and swelling on her leg. “The superintendent hit me on my head, threatened me and used profane language. He told me, ‘tu witness banne ja rahi hai na hamare khilaaf, tereko bhi hum dekh lenge (you are going as a witness against us, we will see to you’),” she said.
Mukerjea said that on Monday, the prison staff refused to open the barracks. “I was later threatened in front of all inmates, who are willing to go come forward as witnesses. I was again told by the superintendent ‘tum ko jo karna hai woh tumne kar liya. Jo uske (Shetye) saath hua, tumhaare saath bhi hoga’ (You have done what you wanted to. What happened to Shetye will happen to you too).” Mukerjea added that the prison staff then sent a medical officer to examine her.
“The doctor noted the injuries and told the prison staff that I should be sent to JJ Hospital for a further check up. I waited all day but at 8.30 pm, three doctors from JJ Hospital came to examine me. They have already given a report to the jail authorities,” Mukerjea told the court.
She further said that she was threatened because she had told the police she was willing to give a statement as a witness under section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code —is admissible in court— against the prison staff. “I told them I will give a statement. They want me to back out and that is the reason they are threatening me,” she told the court.
The court directed the Byculla jail authorities to send Mukerjea to JJ Hospital for further medical examination. It also directed that Mukerjea be taken to the Nagpada police station if she wished to file a complaint against the jail officials.
On Wednesday, Mukerjea was taken to JJ hospital. According to a medical officer, Mukerjea suffered four bruises. “There were injury marks on both her elbows, one on knee and one on hand,” the doctor said. She was discharged from the hospital. An official from Nagpada police station said she was not brought to the there for the complaint.