FINDING no criminality in the WhatsApp posts of Deputy Inspector General (DIG), Prisons, Swati Sathe, which were purported to be empathetic and sought financial assistance for the six jail staffers arrested in the Manjula Shetye custodial death case, Konkan Divisional Commissioner Jagdish Patil has recently submitted his report to the state home department saying Sathe’s action does not warrant any disciplinary action. He has, however, said Sathe should be “warned” by her department.
Confirming the development, Patil told The Indian Express that he had submitted his report to the state government.
“I have submitted the report to the state government and it won’t be appropriate to divulge the details,” he said.
Shetye, a 31-year old Bhandup resident, was serving life term in Byculla jail for the murder of her sister-in-law. On June 23, she was allegedly assaulted by the jail staff after a brawl over distribution of eggs and bread allegedly following a complaint by other inmates to the jailor.
In July, following the arrest of the six jail staffers in the case, Sathe had posted a couple of messages on a WhatsApp group, allegedly supporting the accused. Referring to the arrested staffers as “sisters”, Sathe had purportedly posted messages requesting other senior officials from the prisons cadre to provide monetary assistance for their bail.
Sathe, initially entrusted with the task of conducting a departmental inquiry against the accused jail staff, had recused herself from the probe after the messages went viral.
Following an uproar during the monsoon session of the Legislative Assembly, an inquiry was ordered by the government. To ensure there are no allegations of conflict of interest, the inquiry was handed over to the Konkan divisional commissioner, who is not associated with the prisons department.
Sources said Patil recorded the statements of stakeholders connected to the case and summoned Sathe during the inquiry. In order to ascertain that the messages were indeed posted by Sathe, Patil even sought assistance of the cyber cell of the Navi Mumbai police.
“While Sathe accepted that the posts were put out by her, she defended her stand that her posts were leaked by those having vested interest and that she was a victim of internal rivalry,” said an official from the home department, who did not wish to be named. “The report by the Navi Mumbai police confirmed that the messages were posted by Sathe,” added the official.
The sources said once the report reached the prisons department, a warning would be issued to Sathe to ensure she does not repeat her action. “While the report has not found any criminality on the part of Sathe, it has recommended warning her. The report has been forwarded to the prisons department for necessary action,” added the official.
Earlier this year, Sathe, in an affidavit before a Mumbai sessions court, had defended herself stating, “I was shocked and dismayed by the incident (Shetye’s murder) when I heard about it. The staff of the prison were highly upset by the ongoing media trial and hence as an officer of the state, I only assured all concerned of an unbiased and impartial inquiry without prejudice in the matter strictly in accordance with law and the same was posted on the informal group of prison officers requesting their support.”
Six staffers including jailor Manisha Pokharkar and guards Bindu Naikode, Waseema Shaikh, Sheetal Shegaokar, Surekha Gudve and Aarti Shingane were suspended following Shetye’s death.
Subsequently, the Mumbai Crime Branch arrested them. In September, the Crime Branch chargesheeted them on the charges of murder, destruction of evidence, criminal intimidation and criminal conspiracy with common intention under the Indian Penal Code.