Lackadaisical approach of escorts accompanying undertrials to the court premises is to be blamed for instances like the escape of Afzal Usmani, a suspected Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative and an accused in the 2008 Gujarat blasts, who escaped from the sessions court premises near Kalaghoda in south Mumbai on Friday, say advocates.
According to a sessions court lawyer, the police escorts do not keep a stern eye on the offenders, who are often seen mingling with their families on court premises although it is not allowed without the judge’s permission.
Usmani, who was among the 21 accused to be produced before the court, was brought in a group of eight from Taloja jail in Navi Mumbai, which was escorted by 10 policemen.
“The fifth floor of the new building and the third floor of the old building in the sessions court are connected, and the corridors are packed with family members of the accused. If the escort does not watch the accused, he can easily take advantage of the disorder, like Usmani did,” said an advocate.
He added that after the hearing is over, the accused is supposed to be immediately escorted back to the police van parked behind the court building, but there have been several instances when these men have been found loitering in the court premises.
Highlighting problems with the sessions court’s infrastructure, advocates said the entire court at Kalaghoda is devoid of CCTV camera surveillance, which can help identify the people the absconder interacted with before fleeing.
Besides, said advocates, only two of the six gates to the court are monitored. Even at the two, although there are policemen present, they seldom check vehicles.
“The major problem lies with the exits. The personnel present at these gates can never be seen questioning anyone who leaves the court premises. There is infrastructure, it is only the lethargy and callousness of personnel that cannot be accounted for,” said another sessions court advocate.