The Delhi High Court on Wednesday transferred an inquiry into the alleged murder of a Tihar Jail inmate from the city police to the Central Bureau of Investigation, Live Law reported.
The inmate, 29-year-old Ankit Gujjar, was found dead inside his cell in Tihar Jail on August 4. He was allegedly involved in a brawl with senior jail official Narender Meena due to the prison authorities’ decision to move him to another cell, India Today reported, citing witness statements.
After the incident, Meena and other prison officials had allegedly beaten up Gujjar and two of his fellow inmates with sticks.
Gujjar had been arrested in 2015 in connection with the murder of Bharatiya Janata Party leader Vijay Pandit in Uttar Pradesh’s Dadri district, according to The Indian Express.
After Gujjar’s death, his family filed a petition before the High Court seeking transfer of the investigation from the Delhi Police to the Central Bureau of Investigation. The petition alleged that an official allegedly asked a CCTV camera to be shut down when the 29-year-old was being beaten up, according to PTI.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Justice Mukta Gupta observed that Gujjar’s postmortem report belied Meena’s claim that a scuffle took place, in which both of them sustained injuries, The Hindu reported.
“Not only did Narender Meena 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 High Court judge said.
Justice Gupta said that it was “unfathomable” how the jail doctor did not see multiple injuries to Gujjar’s body while examining him. She said that his life could have been saved if he had been given proper medical treatment.
The court said that an investigation needs to be carried out into “who all committed the offence of brutally beating the deceased”, along with the role of the jail doctors who did not provide proper treatment at the right time, according to Live Law.
“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,” the court said.
The petition by Gujjar’s family alleged that he was murdered as part of a conspiracy and that jail officials had been harassing him as he had been unable to meet their increasing demands for money.
The court said that if the allegations are correct, it is “a very serious offence which requires in depth investigation to unearth the manner in which alleged extortion is carried out in the prison”, The Hindu reported.
The High Court directed the Central Bureau of Investigation to file a status report on the inquiry before the next date of hearing on October 28.
It also asked the Director General (Prisons) to file a report listing out the measures taken to streamline CCTV cameras in Tihar Jail. The court directed the authorities to frame rules so that officers do not take advantage of non-functional CCTV cameras in jails.