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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Clear case of custodial torture: Delhi HC on gangster Ankit Gujjar’s death inside Tihar

Gujjar was allegedly murdered inside the prison last month and his family has approached the court for a CBI probe in the matter.

Written by Sofi Ahsan | New Delhi |
Updated: September 3, 2021 7:26:08 am
Ankit Gujjar was allegedly murdered inside the prison last month and his family has approached the court for a CBI probe in the matter. (File)

The Delhi High Court Thursday termed the death of 29-year-old gangster Ankit Gujjar inside Tihar Jail a serious matter and said injuries sustained by him clearly show it was a case of custodial torture. Gujjar’s family argued it was not a simple case of spur-of-the-moment custodial violence, but he was murdered because he refused to pay extortion money to the jail staff.

Gujjar was allegedly murdered inside the prison last month and his family has approached the court for a CBI probe in the matter. Four prison officials, including Deputy Superintendent Narender Meena, Assistant Superintendents Deepak Dabas and Balraj, and Warder Shiva, have been suspended after the incident. Police have also registered an FIR to probe the allegations.

While reserving its judgment on the petition seeking transfer of probe from the Delhi Police, Justice Mukta Gupta said that a life has been lost and it was not a case of simpliciter departmental action. The court said that besides being the case of beating of prisoners, the allegation is also that when recovery of a mobile phone was made, the Deputy Superintendent of Jail asked for money.

“It is a case where for every implication or every offence they (prisoners) commit, money is sought from them, money is extorted from them. If it is found out that this money is going through Paytm to the various accounts… it is a far more serious thing. If it has happened with this deceased, it must be happening with others also,” Justice Gupta said.

The court also questioned the delay in the recovery of DVRs of CCTV cameras from the jail. “Till date the jail authorities have the audacity not to give the DVRs. What do you mean that notice has to be given to them. It has been almost one month and they have not handed over the DVRs,” it told police.

The DG (Prisons) in a report told the court that Gujjar was facing trial in 13 cases. On August 3, the DG said, Gujjar and two other inmates engaged in a scuffle with Deputy Superintendent Narender Meena after a mobile phone, a cable and one hand-made knife were “recovered” from his cell and they were told to shift to another ward. The CCTV cameras in the area were shut on the day of the incident due to a technical problem, the court was told in the report.

However, Delhi Police in its report told the court that an eyewitness told them that Meena had turned off CCTV cameras and called more staff “with 50-60 danda” to beat the inmates, including Gujjar. Police also told the court that between January 1 and August 24, no SIM card of Airtel, Idea and Vodafone was found to have been operational on the mobile phones recovered from Gujjar’s cell. Seeking time to complete the probe, the police said 28 witnesses have been examined.

The police also told the court that they were probing financial transactions, particularly three Paytm numbers to whom money was allegedly transferred.

Advocate Mehmood Pracha, representing the family, argued that police were only trying to help the accused by giving it the colour of a spur-of-the-moment incident. “Every attempt is being made to show that there was no injury. The doctors, who actually went to the victim at 1 am in the night, have not been examined. The police are creating such circumstances which will lead to their acquittal,” he argued.

While reading to the court a statement given by an eyewitness, Pracha said that the police in their status report, while reproducing the statement of that witness before High Court, has not made mention of the alleged demands made by jail officials.

The petition filed by Gujjar’s mother, brother, and sister states that authorities are trying to “manipulate the investigation” to save and shield the culprits. The conduct of authorities “unabashedly” has been in favour of the offenders and against the victims, it contends

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