THE BOMBAY High Court on Thursday ordered for “proper protection” to be given to witnesses in the case of a 32-year-old convict’s death at Nashik central jail in October. After the convict died by suicide leaving behind a note in his abdomen alleging that he was harassed by five prison officials, some of his co-inmates had also written to authorities about it.
A family member of one of the inmates lodged in Nashik jail had last month written to the state government, police and the State Human Rights Commission that four inmates who had come forward to speak on the incident were being harassed by officials.
The division bench of Justices S S Shinde and M S Karnik was hearing a petition filed by Mumtaz Mansoori, the father of convict Asgharali Mansoori who died by suicide in the jail on October 7.
A suicide note found in the abdomen of Mansoori at the time of post-mortem had named five prison officials alleging harassment by them stating that it had led him to take the extreme step.
No FIR has been registered in the case so far, following which Mumtaz approached the High Court seeking an independent probe, suspension of the five named in the note pending probe and protection to co-inmates including their transfer to another prison immediately. The High Court heard the matter on Thursday and directed the respondents in the case — the state Home department and the Nashik Central jail — to respond. “In the meantime, we impress upon the respondents that proper protection is given to witnesses in the case in hand, in accordance with the relevant rules and procedure,” the bench said.
Advocate Mihir Desai, representing Mumtaz and People’s Union for Civil Liberties, said that the co-inmates whose letters are attached to the petition, are witnesses in the case and require immediate protection since the five named in the note are also serving in the same prison.
When contacted, Suraj Bijli of Nashik Road police station said that he had not seen the court’s order so far and that he was on leave. Additional director general (prisons), Sunil Ramanand said that witnesses outside the jail will be the responsibility of the police and those inside the jail are protected.
“Once the list of the names of witnesses under our custody is given by the investigating agency, we will take appropriate steps based on their suggestion,” he said.
On October 7, Mansoori, who was serving life imprisonment, was found hanging in a prison cell, following which a post-mortem had revealed that he had swallowed a suicide note wrapped in a polythene bag, naming five officials alleging harassment. The petition by his father states that he suspects foul play in the death and seeks a free and fair inquiry.
Last month, Mohammed Suhail Shaikh, the brother of an inmate named Zuber, had written to authorities stating that one of the four inmates had been assaulted by prison officials on November 24. Shaikh added that while the authorities had recorded the statements of those who were willing to come forward as witnesses, his brother had informed him on a phone call that the statements were not recorded as per their say.
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