The Maharashtra prisons department, which was planning to shift undertrial Indrani Mukerjea out of Byculla jail to its Thane or Kalyan facilities, has now decided not to move her. A probe conducted by the prisons department has identified Mukerjee as one of the “prime instigators” of the Byculla jail riot in the aftermath of convict Manuja Shetye’s death on June 23. The inquiry by the department has revealed that Mukerjea and Divya Pahuja — arrested for her alleged role in the “fake encounter” of Haryana gangster Sandeep Gadoli — led the rioting inmates.
“In the wake of the incident, we had decided to move Mukerjea out of the Byculla jail. But in a recent meeting of jail officials, it was decided that it was better to keep her in Mumbai,” a senior official said on the condition of anonymity.
Officials said that while prison rules mandates moving out inmates who cause “mischief”, it was decided to retain Mukerjea at Byculla.
“Our inquiry has revealed that Mukerjea and Pahuja led the mob. They were the ones who torched files, broke a few CCTV cameras and a panel, and also directed others to break the lock and move to the terrace so that the media could capture them protesting. They even asked the inmates to use children as human shields and use kitchenware to attack the policemen trying to rein them in,” the official said.
When asked if the decision was based on any security threat, the source said there was no input of any threat perception to Mukerjea. “We have not received any input about a threat perception to Mukerjea. Also, soon she will be taken to Delhi for an enquiry by the Enforcement Directorate in a money laundering case. Her escort would be the responsibility of the agency taking her custody and the Maharashtra Prisons Department would have no role in this,” added the official.
Last month a Delhi Court issued a production warrant against Mukerjea in a money laundering case allegedly involving Karti Chidambaram, son of former Union Minister P Chidambaram.
Meanwhile, in a related development, the footage recovered by the FSL from the CCTV installed inside the Byculla jail shows Indrani “leading” the mob and instructing them to ransack property. These have been submitted to the probe agency. “The footage clearly shows Mukerjea leading the prisoners and damaging prisons department’s property,” said a senior Mumbai Crime Branch officer privy to the probe details.
Mukerjea is currently on trial by a Special CBI court in Mumbai for her alleged role in the murder of her daughter, Sheena Bora.
The riot in the Byculla jail had erupted over the death of murder convict Shetye (31). the Bhandup resident was serving life term for the murder of her sister-in-law in Yerawada jail since 2005, and was shifted to Byculla prison early this year.
On June 23, she was allegedly assaulted by the jail staff after a brawl over distribution of eggs and bread, after other inmates complained about her to the jailor. The assault allegedly led to her death. Six staffers — including jailor Manisha Pokharkar and guards Bindu Naikode, Waseema Shaikh, Sheetal Shegaokar, Surekha Gudve and Aarti Shingane — were suspended following the incident.
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. Both the cases are being probed by the Mumbai Crime branch, which is likely to file its chargesheet within a fortnight.