THE MUMBAI Police Crime Branch, investigating the custodial death of Manjula Shetye, has sought permission from various city courts to record statements of Byculla jail inmates. Around 291 inmates were present in the prison at the time of the alleged murder of Shetye. Six jail officials have been arrested in the case and the police are likely to make most of the inmates witnesses against them.
Since the women are in judicial custody of various courts, the police will need permissions from the courts before recording their statements, under the Criminal Procedure Code. “We drew up a list of inmates and their case details, and then began approaching the courts hearing their matters, which include metropolitan magistrate courts, sessions court and special courts, including the Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances Act court . At the Mumbai district sessions court, we have approached 24 courts so far,” said a senior Crime Branch official.
“It is a procedural step. We do not want defence advocates to claim at the trial stage that we did not take the statements as directed under the law. Some of the courts have granted permission and the process of recording the statements is underway,” the official said. After Shetye’s murder on June 23, inmates of the Byculla women’s prison had protested, demanding that the media be allowed inside to hear their demands.
The inmates also demanded that prison authorities request a Bombay High Court judge into the prison premises to hear their grievances. “If not for the protest, the prison authorities would have tried passing off the murder as a heart attack. The assault was witnessed by many of the inmates, who have come forward to give their statements as they want justice for Manjula,” said an inmate from the Byculla jail.
The Nagpada police had booked all the inmates for rioting after the alleged assault. Some inmates, including Indrani Mukerjea, have also come forward seeking to file complaints against the jail superintendent and other authorities alleging assault.