The Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission (MSHRC) has issued a suo motu notice to the state prisons department and additional director general of police on Thursday, following reports of death of a murder convict inside Byculla prison.
The victim, Manjula Shetye, was assaulted allegedly by six prison officials over an argument last Friday. The same evening, Shetye (31) was rushed from Byculla prison, after she was found unconscious in the bathroom, to the state-run JJ hospital where she was declared brought dead on June 23.
The Commission chairperson S R Bannurmath observed in the notice, “The Commission has taken suo motu cognisance of the same and decided to inquire into the matter vide Section 12(a) of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.”
The Commission has given 20 days for the government to submit a report on the incident, stating that necessary action will be taken if the report is not submitted by July 17.
While the Nagpada police registered a case against 291 female inmates for rioting in prison, the prisons department has suspended six staffers— jailor Manisha Pokharkar, and guards Bindu Naikode, Waseema Shaikh, Sheetal Shegaokar, Surekha Gudve and Aarti Shingane— over the episode. A separate case has been registered against the prison officials and the Nagpada police are conducting investigations.
According to the first information report (FIR), the prison staff assaulted Shetye, who was also appointed as a warden in prison, over an argument over food on June 23 afternoon. She was later sent to her barracks and assaulted again, the FIR stated. In the evening, another inmate found her unconscious. She was first rushed to prison medical officer and then taken to JJ hospital. Dr T P Lahane, dean at hospital, said she was declared dead on arrival at the casualty department.
According to allegations of inmates, Shetye was assaulted in the private parts using a lathi by prison officials. According to a forensic expert, part of the post-mortem team at JJ hospital, Shetye’s private parts had no bruise or evidence of sexual assault. “There were no injury marks on her pelvic region. The post-mortem also showed no evidence that a lathi was inserted in her private organs,” the forensic expert said.
“She had multiple contusions that led to her death. The viscera samples and evidence for histopathology has been reserved for chemical analysis. It will help in ascertaining if anything was mixed in her food,” a doctor told The Indian Express. There were over 11 injury marks on her body, including scalp that had a big contusion mark probably caused by the blow of a lathi. Her lungs were found damaged. She also suffered from pulmonary edema, a condition in which the heart is unable to pump sufficient blood causing heart failure. Doctors are awaiting further forensic reports to ascertain whether heart failure led to her death or assault injuries were the primary reason for her death.