The Bombay High Court Wednesday directed Additional Commissioner of Police KMM Prasanna to ascertain if any efforts were made by jail authorities to trace 11 former undertrials who were witness to the custodial death of a fellow inmate in 1996 in the Thane Central Prison. The court also directed Additional Commissioner of Police (Thane Western Region) Pratapsingh Patankar to trace them.
“If it is found that adequate efforts were not made, the names of officers will have to be ascertained for failure of carrying out duty and Patankar shall seek directions to carry out action for dereliction of duty,” said the court, while also directing him to ensure prisoner records are properly maintained. “To ensure that such incidents do not occur again Patankar is free to give suggestions on how to improve the situation,” added the High Court, giving him three months to complete his inquiry.
Prasanna has been directed to trace the 11 inmates and to ensure that a team of officers is constituted to trace them.
The court also said it is the responsibility of the state to trace the former inmates so that a fresh inquiry could be ordered into the custodial death.
Robert Almeida, 33, was arrested by Vikhroli police for assaulting his father while he was drunk. A day later, on August 30, 1996, he was shifted to Thane prison and was found dead on September 1, 1996, with injury marks on his body. The postmortem report said he had died of brain haemorrhage.
An activist, N R Soni, wrote to the High Court referring to three deaths in the prison during that period, which was then converted into a suo motu PIL in 1997.