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Delhi HC Says Tihar Inmate Died due to Custodial Violence, Transfers Probe to CBI

If the allegations raised by the deceased’s family regarding the extortion of money in the prison were correct, ‘it is a very serious offence’ requiring in-depth investigation, the court said.
Delhi HC

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court Wednesday transferred investigation into the alleged murder of Tihar inmate Ankit Gujjar to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), saying he “lost his life to custodial violence”.

Justice Mukta Gupta, while dealing with a petition by Gujjar’s family for transfer of the probe, directed that the case file be sent from Delhi Police to the CBI and sought a status report from it before the next date of hearing on October 28.

“Walls of prison, howsoever high they may be, the foundation of a prison is laid on the Rule of Law ensuring the rights to its inmates enshrined in the Constitution of India. It is the violation of these Constitutional rights of Ankit Gujjar, who lost his life to custodial violence in Tihar Jail, which has compelled the petitioners Geeta, Shivani and Ankul, the mother, sister and brother of deceased Ankit Gujjar to file the present writ petition,” the judge observed.

If the family’s allegations of extortion in the prison are correct, “it is a very serious offence which requires in-depth investigation”, the court said.

“This Court deems it fit to transfer the investigation of case FIR No.451/2021 under Sections 302/323/341/34 IPC registered at PS Hari Nagar, Delhi to CBI. The case file be transferred to CBI immediately by the concerned police station,” the court ruled.

Gujjar, 29, was found dead inside his cell in Tihar jail on August 4.

The court stated that the post-mortem report of the deceased “belies the version” of the jail officials that a scuffle took place in which both Deputy Superintendent and Gujjar received injuries.

“It is evident that deceased was brutally beaten and left unattended... Not only did Narender Meena (DS) and others assaulted the deceased mercilessly, the Jail doctor on duty also failed to perform his duty when he examined Ankit at 1.00 AM in night and administered the injection, as he neither informed the senior officers of the condition of Ankit nor referred Ankit to the hospital,” the order reads.

It is unfathomable that the jail doctor failed to see the multiple injuries on the deceased, the court said, adding that an investigation was needed into not only the offence of brutal beating of the deceased but also into “the role of jail doctors in not providing proper treatment at the right time”.

The court observed that the DIG Prisons “failed to notice the connivance/laxity” of the jail deputy superintendent who did not permit the local police to go inside the jail to inquire into the PCR call made in relation to the beating of the deceased on the intervening night of August 3-4.

The court said the case called for “immediate remedial actions” by the authorities to ensure that “unscrupulous officers” do not take advantage of non-functional CCTVs to get away.

It sought a status report from the Director General (Prisons) on streamlining the CCTV system in the jail, accountability of the jail officers and doctors as well the mechanism by which immediate entry is provided to the police to the jail on receipt of information of a cognisable offence.

The family has alleged that Gujjar was being harassed by the jail officials as he was “unable to meet their regularly increasing demands for money” and was murdered “as a part of pre-planned conspiracy”.

Filed through lawyers Mehmood Pracha and Shariq Nisar, the family’s petition alleged that the jail authorities in Tihar were operating an “organised extortion syndicate”, and the police was trying to manipulate the investigation in order to save and shield the culprits.

It alleged “culpability of the entire administration” on the ground that the CCTV were ordered to be shut down by an official at the time of when the deceased was beaten.

On August 18, the court had sought status reports from Delhi Police and jail authorities on the plea.

Delhi Police claimed that the investigation was going on in a fair manner and that the deceased, who was found to be in possession of a mobile phone, amongst other things, had attacked the Deputy Superintendent earlier in the day.

In its status report, the jail administration stated that four officials, including the Deputy Superintendent, have been suspended, and eight others have been shifted from Central Jail No.3 and ordered to report to the Superintendent, PHQ, till further orders.

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