HC transfers Tihar jail inmate death inquiry to CBI


Move comes after Delhi Police fails to make headway in the case; CBI asked to file report by Sept. 29

With the Delhi police unable to make much headway into the investigation behind the mysterious death of an inmate inside Tihar Jail in May this year, the Delhi High Court has transferred the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Injury marks

Justice Mukta Gupta noted that there was glaring variance in the Superintendent Jail’s report and the version of the deceased’s mother over the manner in which the death of the inmate has been caused.

As per the status report filed by the Superintendent Jail, there was no apparent injury on the deceased, Srikant, however, the case of the mother is that there were deep injury marks on his body.

Srikant was taken into custody in connection with three FIRs on June 13, 2019, and since then, he was in judicial custody.

As per the Jail Superintendent, on the day of the incident on May 14, 2020, the officers on duty heard some hue and cry in one of the barracks at 7 a.m. When the officers rushed to the spot, four inmates were beating Srikant with a cricket bat. The officials intervened and separated the group. Later that day, Srikant complained of trepidation and pain in the body. Taking note of his injuries, he was referred to Safdarjung Hospital, where he succumbed to death.

The Delhi police said that Srikant used to bully other inmates and also demanded money from them. It said that Srikant was targeted by some of the harassed inmates. The police said all the four accused persons have been arrested in the present case.

Mysterious calls from jail

In its status report, the police stated that PCR calls were also received from unknown numbers that inmate Srikant has been assaulted by a senior jail official.

The sister of the deceased has also claimed that she had received a call from her brother, a day prior to the incident, expressing apprehension of being murdered by the jail officers.

“However, there is no investigation on the said point. The mobile of the sister has not been taken and call records also have not been analysed which would have revealed something,” Justice Gupta remarked.

“Nor has any investigation been carried out from the call records of the mobile number…from which PCR call was made. It has been two months since the FIR in question has been registered,” the judge said, noting that the investigation based on calls “appears to be incomplete”.

On previous hearing, the HC had enquired about the CCTV footage of the ward where the incident took place. However, the jail authorities said that the CCTVs in ward are not in working condition.

The Director General (Prisons), who appeared in person through videoconferencing during the hearing, stated that most of the old CCTVs installed in Tihar jail have become non-functional and a mega plan of installation of the CCTVs is underway.

The Director General (Prisons) stated that the project of installation of CCTVs got delayed due to Covid-19, however, efforts are being made to ensure that the newly installed CCTVs become functional expedituously. He stated that out of 6,967 CCTVs to be installed, more than half of the CCTVs installed are functional and rest would be functional by August 15, 2021.

Considering all the details of the case, the High Court said, “an in-depth investigation is required to be conducted to find out the circumstances under which the deceased made a phone call to his sister expressing his apprehension of death and his subsequent death in the judicial custody”.

The court has called for a status report from the CBI into the investigation in the case by next date of hearing on September 29.

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