The Delhi High Court Tuesday ordered a CBI enquiry against prison officials who allegedly assaulted several inmates at Tihar Jail in November last year, saying it “cannot condone custodial violence”.
“We are not going to condone custodial violence. Not in this city. Accused or convicts — after all, they are human beings who were in your custody. Law is equal for all, whether it’s a man in uniform. The law does not change for anyone,” said a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar.
Referring to the Supreme Court ruling, the High Court bench reiterated that police should scrupulously follow guidelines it had formulated in cases of arrest and detention. “SC mandates independent investigation agency (preferably respective Human Rights Commissions or CBI) may be entrusted with adequate power to investigate complaints of custodial violence against police personnel and take stern and speedy action followed by prosecution, wherever necessary,” said Justice Mittal.
The bench ordered the CBI probe into the matter after two committees appointed by it on November 23 and 27 last year — soon after complaints were raised by inmates — flagged violation of fundamental, human and legal rights of prisoners.
As reported by The Indian Express, 18 injured inmates were locked up inside their cells for at least two-and-a-half hours without treatment, while four Tamil Nadu State Police personnel with “minor injuries” were rushed in an ambulance to DDU Hospital.
This was the finding of a three-member panel investigating the violence on November 21 last year inside jail number 1.
The HC directed that reports of the two committees be handed over to the CBI as “prima facie”, this issue requires a detailed probe and prosecution of persons culpable for the attack.
The bench asked the CBI to visit and inspect jail number 1, including the high-risk cell. “Officials shall render every assistance during this visit and inspection. The prisoners shall be permitted to meet CBI in private so as to enable unhindered and free communication,” the bench said.
It sought an action taken report from the CBI within four weeks, and listed the matter for further hearing on July 10.
Standing counsel (criminal) Rahul Mehra pleaded that the bench not take such harsh steps, as an enquiry is already being carried out against prison officials – including one who is to retire in six months.
The court’s direction came on a PIL by advocate Chinmay Kanojia, who has alleged that his client Shahid Husuf, currently being investigated by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and undergoing trial, was beaten up without reason by Tihar Jail staff.
When the incident was brought to the attention of the HC on November 22 last year, the court had set up a committee of senior HC judicial officers to look into the matter. The committee, in its report, had opined that inmates were beaten up without any justifiable reason.