New Delhi: Terming as serious matter the killing of an undertrial by other inmates, a Delhi court has suggested that the possibility of a "cover-up" by the Rohini Jail authorities to save senior officers cannot be ruled out and said it required an independent probe.
The court pulled up the jail authorities for failing to prevent the April 25 murderous assault on Rajvinder, who was also a witness in a criminal case against his attackers, on the prison premises and not informing it about the incident until the case came up for hearing 10 days later.
The court sought a detailed report from the jail authorities regarding the circumstances under which witness Rajvinder was housed in the same jail and barrack accessible to the accused persons and why the aspect of his death was concealed and withheld from it.
Noting that the jail authorities had suspended junior officers, the court said it could have been an attempt to save those who were actually guilty of culpable negligence.
Additional Sessions Judge Kamini Lau slammed the jail authorities for their failure in keeping a check over inmates who had managed to sneak into a different ward and had killed an undertrial, who was a witness in the case against them.
The court said it was a serious matter that undertrials were having a free access to any place in the jail complex without any inhibitions and added that it required an independent probe.
"...It is a serious matter that the undertrials can have a free access to any place in the complex without any inhibitions in the manner in which it has happened. How is it that undertrial prisoners housed in a different ward could have easily managed to sneak into a different ward duly armed with a `kattan` (a dangerous weapon) without any inhibition, obstruction or anybody stopping them?
"This in fact is a serious matter requiring an independent probe/inquiry. This I say because the manner in which an action has been hurriedly initiated against comparatively junior officers of the rank of Head Warden and Warden by suspending them, is something which gives me a lurking feeling that perhaps something is amiss.
"And therefore, the possibility of this being a cover-up to save the officers of the jail administration actually guilty of culpable negligence cannot be ruled out," the judge said.
The court`s observation came in a case in which it had received an information on April 26 from the Rohini Jail Superintendent that on April 25, accused Manpreet Singh along with two other inmates assaulted their fellow prisoner Rajvinder, who was lodged in a different ward and was a witness in the criminal case against them.
The authorities informed the court that Rajvinder was attacked on his neck and other body parts with the weapon causing grievous injuries and was taken to hospital.
The judge, however, was not informed by the authorities about Rajvinder`s death and it was only on May 5 when the case came up for hearing, the advocates appearing in the matter disclosed this to the court.
Accused Manpreet was lodged in ward number 2 while Rajvinder was housed in ward number 6.
Jail Superintendent R S Nagar, in his detailed report, said that Rajvinder had been declared dead at LNJP Hospital on the morning of April 26 and Manpreet and Rajvinder were confined in Rohini District Jail because it was not disclosed to the authorities that he (Rajvinder) was an witness in this case till the time of such incident.
The report said that the incident took place when prisoner Amit, Ashu and Manpreet went to the jail dispensary on the pretext of some illness and for taking medicines.
The three accused gathered and tried to enter ward number 6 by making an excuse that they had come there to search their missing clothes and reached the victim Rajvinder and allegedly attacked him, the report said, adding that the lapse of not mentioning about his death was committed "inadvertently".
A case of attempt to murder was then registered against the trio.
The court, however, said the explanation of the Jail Superintendent appeared to be "false and factually incorrect".
It said the authorities had earlier informed the court about the attack which showed they were aware that Rajvinder was a witness in the case.
"This being the background, now it does not lie in their mouth to say that they were not aware that Rajvinder was a witness in the present case since as per their own version the accused Manpreet had already disclosed this fact to them on April 25 that Rajvinder had deposed against them in the present case," the court said.
The court also directed that copies of its order be sent to the metropolitan magistrate before whom the inquest proceedings are pending and also to the District Judge who has the territorial jurisdiction over the area, the Inspecting Sessions Judge (Rohini Jail) and the Principal Secretary (Home) of Delhi Government.