Family members of some SIMI suspects lodged at Bhopal Central Jail have approached the NHRC, alleging that prison authorities were torturing them and denying adequate food since the killing of eight undertrials in an encounter last year.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has taken cognisance of the matter and directed its own investigation team to conduct an on-the-spot inquiry and submit a report at the earliest.
A delegation consisting of eight relatives, and members of a few NGOs and civil society, had recently submitted a memorandum to the NHRC, seeking its intervention.
“A representation has been received from Nazma Bi and nine others, most of them residents of district Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh. They are relatives of 21 undertrial prisoners, who are lodged in the Bhopal jail,” according to the Commission.
As per the case details of the complaint, the Commission has observed that “The matter has been thoughtfully considered by the Commission and it is of the view that true facts need to be ascertained in the first instance.”
“The DIG (Investigation) of the Commission is requested to constitute a team of officers, headed by an SSP to conduct an on-the-spot investigation and submit their report at the earliest in respect of the truth or otherwise of the allegations made in the complaint,” it said.
The memorandum sent to the NHRC has been endorsed by Kavita Srivastava and N D Pancholi of the Peoples Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), Manisha Sethi of Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association, and member from the Innocence Network, Quill Foundation, Association for Protection of Civil Rights and People’s Watch.
In the complaint, the kin have alleged that “several instances of torture and inhuman treatment have been reported to have been meted out to them since October 31, 2016, when eight other undertrials were killed in an encounter”.
“We are writing to you to express grave concern and seek immediate intervention of the Hon’ble Commission in the cases of custodial torture and human rights violations,” the memorandum says.
The eight SIMI activists who had pulled off a daring prison break and escaped in the wee hours after killing a security guard at the Bhopal Central Jail, were on October 31, hunted down and killed in the police encounter on the outskirts of Bhopal.
The Commission, quoting from the memorandum, says, “Upon perusal, it emerges that all these undertrial prisoners are allegedly being physically and mentally tortured in judicial custody. They are not being provided basic amenities and health care facilities. They are being kept in solitary confinement and not being allowed to meet their relatives for more than five minutes.
“It is also mentioned that the jail officials always remain present when the relatives of these prisoners visit them, in the jail,” it says.
Apart from this, the Commission, said, it has also received a communication, raising the same issue, from Kavita Srivastava of PUCL and other human rights defenders, associated with different organisations.
“If the contents of the complaint and its annexures thereto, are believed to be true, it is certainly a matter of concern for the Commission, which demands an impartial enquiry. There are a number of serious issues like confinement of undertrial prisoners in solitary cells, non-supply of food, denial of medical treatment, inhuman behavior on the part of jail officials towards these undertrial prisoners and so on,” the NHRC further said.
Madhuri of PUCL, who accompanied the relatives to Delhi, said, “We are relieved and really appreciate the prompt action taken by the NHRC in this matter, and hope the team will visit there at the earliest.”