Police looked for cell phones inside Siwan jail during a three-hour search on Wednesday after information that around 36 calls were made from the prison to a suspect present at the spot where journalist Rajdeo Ranjan was murdered.
Intelligence inputs suggest that the order to kill 42-year-old Ranjan, the head of Hindi daily Hindustan in Siwan town, on May 13 went from somebody lodged in the jail.
Authorities confiscated about eight phones inside the prison and found that SIM cards of all of them were procured on fake names from a particular shop. The shopkeeper was detained later.
Authorities detained 63 people who came to visit high-profile prisoner Shahabuddin, a former RJD MP serving a life sentence for the murder of two brothers.
The cell of the former Siwan MP, who is in jail since 2004, is being searched too while three of his visitors were questioned.
Police said 38 mobile phones were seized from the visitors, including former chairman of Siwan municipal council Krishna Devi.
“We came to verify whether the jail manual was being followed during interaction of visitors with prisoners during visiting hours. We seized mobile phones which were taken to prohibited areas and will send a report to IG (prisons),” said district magistrate Mahendra Kumar.
Authorities called the surprise inspection a routine security audit, though it was not hard to understand the urgency. The suspect, who received calls from the jail when unidentified assailants shot dead journalist Ranjan, is on the run.
His last call was to a prisoner in the jail and police tracking his phone said he was possibly in UP.
Investigators are focussing on a possible political motive for the murder and questions are being raised over keeping Shahabuddin in Siwan jail though there is no trial in progress against him.
People want him shifted to Bhagalpur jail.
Sources said the former MP meets visitors every Wednesday. But the search revealed that the majority of his visitors broke jail rules — they didn’t take permission in advance for the visit and were not carrying valid identity cards. SP Saurav Kumar said phones seized during the search will be scanned and their call records verified.
Jail rules are often broken with bribery and stealth to give prisoners uninterrupted access to the outside world. In the past, jail searches revealed large hauls of weapons, mobile phones and cash that indicate how jailed criminals were carrying out illegal activities.