Following the escape of Afzal Usmani,an alleged terrorist,from a sessions court in September,the Local Arms (LA) division of the Mumbai Police has appointed squads of randomly picked officers that will conduct surprise checks at courts to ensure that all steps are taken to avoid a repeat of such incidents.
Escort personnel accompanying undertrials to courts have also been instructed to check toilets on the court premises to rule out possibility of escape before they allow an undertrial to use it. The undertrial is also forbidden from bolting the door from inside while using the toilet. A constable will stand guard outside the toilet while the undertrial uses it.
While some of the precautions necessary to ensure that accused do not flee during court appearances were already in place,senior officers admitted that they were being enforced more strictly following Usmanis escape. For more than a month,the LA division has been conducting surprise checks at various courts,where its personnel are deployed to escort prisoners from various central jails to courts and back.
The squads comprise officers of police inspector rank and below and are picked at random. They are tasked with checking if our personnel are discharging their duties properly and whether they are following our instructions accurately, said Additional Commissioner of Police (Local Arms) Vijay Chavan,adding,These instructions always existed but now,we are making sure that they are being followed without any lapse.
The squads are supposed to check whether the escort personnel are being too friendly with prisoners and such behaviour is immediately reported. While Chavan said he could not provide a number,several personnel had been issued reprimands for acting negligently on duty. Sources said this was also done in the light of reports of escort personnel sharing food with undertrials.
On September 20,Usmani,an alleged Indian Mujahideen operative accused of being involved in the Ahmedabad serial blasts of 2008,walked out of the court during lunch hour. Two officers who were part of the 10-member squad escorting him,were suspended following the incident. He was nabbed near the Nepal border on October 27 by the state ATS.