From planning a ‘revenge’ and getting gunshots fired outside the residence of a rival to putting updates from inside the jail on social media, the inmates at Ludhiana Central Jail continue to have unabated access to mobile phones and internet.
On Saturday, the division number 7 police station registered an FIR against two inmates — Gurjant Singh and Jagroop Singh — after they were allegedly caught red-handed while talking on mobile phone. When stopped, they allegedly manhandled an Assistant sub inspector (ASI) and a constable of CRPF and a jail staffer on duty.
A company of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) was deployed for security checks at Ludhiana Central Jail in November last.
Rajiv Arora, superintendent, Ludhiana Central Jail, said that on Thursday, Gurjant Singh was allegedly caught red-handed while speaking on phone and when staff tried to stop him, he and his accomplice Jagroop Singh, tried to destroy the phone and flush it in the toilet.
“In the melee, they manhandled an ASI and a constable from CRPF and a jail warden. We, however, recovered the phone,” said Arora. Both have now been booked under the section 353 (assault or criminal force to deter a public servant from discharge of his duty), 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions) and 34 (act done by several persons with common intention) of IPC and section 52A(1) of the Prisons Act.
Both Gurjant and Jagroop are undertrials in several cases including kidnapping, robbery, attempt to murder and possessing illegal weapons.
But brought to fore the shenanigans inside Ludhiana Central Jail is an investigation into the case of alleged firing outside the residence of Rishab Benipal alias Nannu, an undertrial in an attempt to murder case. He is lodged at Ludhiana Central Jail and on the intervening night of June 8 and 9, five miscreants on bikes allegedly fired multiple gunshots outside his residence in Dharampura area of Ludhiana.
The investigation revealed that three inmates lodged in the Ludhiana Central Jail, who are from Nannu’s rival gang, allegedly weaved the entire conspiracy to take ‘revenge’ of an old incident. They allegedly used mobile phones to first speak to another inmate of their gang in Sangrur Jail and then to another accomplice who is out of jail. Together, they allegedly arranged five others from their gang to open fire outside Nannu’s residence. Three of them, who planned the attack inside jail, have now been brought on production warrant by Ludhiana police and phones have been recovered from them.
Ludhiana ACP (Central) Waryam Singh said that five men opened fire outside Nannu’s residence in Dharampura area on the intervening night of June 8 and 9. “Nannu and Shubham Arora had an alleged clash with the opposite group headed by Manvinder Singh alias Nikka Jattana who is also inside jail. Few days back, Nannu and Shubham allegedly assaulted Nikka, removed his shirt and shot a video. Furious, he decided to take revenge and he along with his two accomplices Manpirat Singh and Krishna Sahni spoke to their other gang member Pankaj Rajput, who is lodged in Sangrur Jail. Then they spoke to another accomplice Mani Bains alias Puneet, who coordinated everything and arranged five men to open fire outside the house of Nannu and Shubham,” said ACP.
Mani Bains was already nursing grudge against Nannu and Shubham because they had allegedly thrashed him outside a restaurant in Ludhiana and he too wanted to take revenge, said ACP.
Nannu, two local Youth Congress leaders- Shubham Arora and Ankit Pandit — and their 10 accomplices were booked for attempt to murder after they allegedly attacked Gaurav Bisht and his friend Mani Bains alias Puneet, outside the restaurant in February 11 this year with baseball bats and rods.
“The entire conspiracy was planned using mobile phones. Plan was to open fire outside homes of Nannu and Shubham both but the five who were chosen to do so could not locate the residence of Shubham and came back after firing outside the house of Nannu only,” said ACP.
Ludhiana police have now brought Nikka and two accomplices on production warrant from Ludhiana jail. “We recovered one phone from them. Sangrur jail inmate Pankaj Rajput will also be brought on production warrant,” said ACP. “There are a total 10 accused in the case as of now — five who opened fire, three who planned conspiracy inside jail, one inmate of Sangrur Jail and Mani Bains who is out,” said ACP.
An FIR against them was registered at division number 3 police station of Ludhiana.
Ludhiana central jail superintendent Arora said that after interrogation of Nikka and his accomplices, two more phones were recovered inside jail which they had allegedly buried in soil. “One is a smartphone and the other a basic phone,” said Arora.
After the firing incident, Nikka also allegedly put up a post on Facebook claiming responsibility for the attack. The post was allegedly made from inside the jail. The accused also allegedly made video calls to each other from jail. Nikka claimed responsibility on Facebook, for getting gunshots fired outside residence of Nannu and wrote that it was just a trailer and that they will give a better answer soon.
On June 2, the division number 7 police registered an FIR against 18 inmates of Ludhiana central jail for alleged recovery of 15 mobile phones. On June 3, one more FIR was registered for recovery of a phone. But superintendent Arora claims that 15 phones for which FIR was registered on June 2 were not recovered ‘all at once’. “They were recovered on different days from different inmates in the last 3-4 months. Despite us giving in writing to division number 7 police station to register FIRs, they delayed it and then registered a single FIR for all recoveries together. Only they can answer why there was a delay in registering FIRs,” he claimed.
Sub-inspector Satvir Singh, SHO division number 7 police station said that due to ‘lockdown and work pressure’, FIRs in phone recoveries from jail were delayed. “We were on long duties and many other works were delayed due to lockdown and coronavirus duties. So some phone recovery FIRs were delayed and have now been clubbed into single FIR,” he said.
Law to deal with mobile phones in Punjab jails
It was in September 2016 that the government of Punjab issued a notification, amending the Prisons Act, 1984 (in its application to state of Punjab) and added the section 52-A (1), specifically prohibiting usage of mobile phones in jails and also making it a cognizable offence. Though the amendment was passed as a Bill in March 2011 itself, it was finally notified in 2016.
The notification issued on September 6, 2016 said that as per the amendment — to be called the Prisons (Punjab Amendment) Act, 2011, the section 52-A (1) has been inserted — which reads, ‘If any prisoner is found guilty of possessing, operating or using a mobile phone or their component parts like SIM card, memory card, battery or charger or if the prisoner or any other person assists or abets or instigates in the supply thereof, he shall be punished with imprisonment for a term, not exceeding one year or with fine, not exceeding rupees twenty five thousand or with both; and if the mobile phone is used for committing an offence inside or outside the jail’s premises by a prisoner, the imprisonment shall not be less than one year, which may extend to three years or with fine, not exceeding rupees forty thousand or with both. In case of non-payment of fine, the imprisonment may be further extended upto one year. (2) The offence committed under sub-section (1), shall be cognizable and shall be triable by the court of the Magistrate First Class.’
The section was added seeing the increasing menace of mobile phones in jails in Punjab.
Currently, the inmates when caught with mobile phones, are booked under this section 52A (1) of the Prisons Act but what remains questionable is how inmates manage to smuggle phones inside barracks, which according to sources is not possible without connivance of jail staff – who are probably bribed by the inmates to let phones and SIM cards in.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines