Fourteen years after an undertrial prisoner died in jail, a magisterial inquiry has revealed that he died due to police torture in Thane Central Prison.
Robert Inold Almeida (33), who was arrested by Vikhroli police for assaulting his father while he was under the influence of alcohol, was found dead in his prison cell on September 1, 1996 with injury marks on his body. The post mortem report said that he had died of a brain haemorrhage.
In 1996, a social activist, NR Soni, had written a letter to the high court after there were news reports of three custodial deaths in the same prison. The high court had converted the letter into a writ petition and admitted the petition in 1997.
When the petition came up for hearing in 2008, the high court converted it into a criminal public interest litigation. The court even appointed senior advocate Madhav Jamdar as amicus curie (friend of the court).
The high court had then called for a report after an inquiry by a magistrate.
A report submitted by the magistrate on Friday before the Bombay High Court said that it seemed Almeida died due to torture. The report also said that the concerned jail officials did not turn up for the inquiry.
The inquiry also took note of a letter written to the magistrate by other prisoners who were in the same cell as Almeida.
The prisoners’ letter said that Almeida was beaten by six-seven policemen with belts, and kicked with spiked shoes. He was put in a separate cell, and though he kept screaming for treatment, no heed was paid.
Later, when he was found dead, heat was applied to the parts of the body to remove the `blood clots', so as to conceal marks of beating, the letter says.
The report concluded that based on the letter and the post mortem report, Almeida may have died because of police assault.
An affidavit was filed by Sadanand Gavit, joint secretary (home), last week that soughyt fresh inquiry stating that the jail staff were not present for the inquiry due to “lack of proper communication”.
Gavit also said that the magistrate did not verify if Almeida had injuries prior to being jailed nor did he take into account Almeida's “history of mental illness.”
The police inquiry at the time had concluded that Almeida was "behaving in an insane manner" since his arrest, and had caused himself injuries. His relatives too did not take objection to this inquiry.