Even as the debate over Ram Singh’s death in Tihar Jail rages, experts say the incident highlights how important it is for the society not to demonise people accused — but not convicted — in a crime.
Delving into the possible reasons behind the mysterious death, experts say the public outrage was understandable but it was wrong to condemn an accused to the extent of making him or her feel that life was simply not worth living.
Lawyers working with the NGO People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) even demanded a probe by a special investigation team comprising officials from outside Delhi. They said that the probe would otherwise be biased.
“It is so unfortunate that the public and the media go on to presume that the accused are guilty and condemn and demonise them to an extent that it makes the lives of these people not worth living,” said senior supreme court lawyer KTS Tulsi.
“An accused is innocent until proved guilty. This fact must not be forgotten. The right of an accused is paramount while in the custody of a state and the state is responsible for whatever happens to him. If he was under suicide watch, proper precaution like round-the-clock surveillance should have been in place, especially when he was the main accused in such a high-profile case,” said former Delhi High Court judge justice RS Sodhi.
Former Tihar Prisons DG Kiran Bedi said the accused should have been given referred to a psychiatrist if he was found depressed and was under suicide watch. “How did this man give the suicide watch a slip? We need to wait for the enquiry report,” she said.
Human rights lawyer and member of PUCL Colin Gonsalves said, “The Supreme Court has repeatedly said that if an accused commits suicide in custody, there should be a thorough probe. In this case, there should be a special investigation team consisting of officials from outside Delhi to ensure a fair probe.”