Weeks after the abysmal living conditions at the Mankhurd woman shelter home came to light, a 24-year-old woman inmate of the jail on Wednesday night delivered a stillborn baby boy in the toilet of the Byculla women’s jail before fainting. Jail authorities told police the woman had not told them she was pregnant.
Doctors at JJ hospital where the woman was taken have expressed surprise that prison authorities could not tell the woman was heavily pregnant.
Vinayak Savde, senior inspector of Nagpada police, where an accidental death report (ADR) has been taken, confirmed that the woman, arrested by the MIDC police on charges of cheating and forgery in May, delivered a stillborn boy on Wednesday. “She had gone to the toilet where she delivered the boy and fainted,” Savde said.
The two prison guards, who were waiting outside, went in after the woman did not come out for a while, only to find her in a faint. She was taken to JJ hospital for treatment. Doctors there said she had a full term pregnancy and it was not a premature delivery. Dr Ashok Anand from JJ hospital said the woman was in stable condition and required minor medical help.
The woman, who has a case of cheating registered against her at Meghwadi police station, too, told doctors she had not told prison authorities about her pregnancy. Ironically, she was pregnant when she was arrested by MIDC police in May. The doctors were shocked how prison authorities could not tell an inmate was so heavily pregnant. Savde said the woman’s husband, a co-accused in the MIDC cheating case, was on the run.
Inspector general (prisons) Vinod Lokhande told HT to contact the acting superintendent of Byculla jail whose phone was switched off.
Additional director general of police (prisons) Meeran Borwankar said, “The jail staff and inmates said she had not told them about her pregnancy, so no one was aware of it.” When asked how a woman who was so heavily pregnant kept it secret, Borwankar said, “I have asked Swati Sathe, (DIG) headquarters to investigate.”
‘How did jail officials not know about pregnancy?’
Mumbai: A former senior jail official, lawyers and doctors are of the unanimous opinion that there was some lapse on the part of the prison authorities that led to the woman inmate delivering a stillborn boy in the prison toilet.
A former jail official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there ‘was definite negligence on the part of the jail authorities’. He said, “If the woman’s statement that she had not told prison authorities about her pregnancy is true, then it is shocking that they could not tell that an inmate was so heavily pregnant.”
A senior doctor at the JJ hospital said, “Only under very rare circumstances can a woman, who is more than eight months pregnant, not be identified. There is a very noticeable physical change in the way the person carries herself. That the fact was under wraps in spite of other inmates being around is surprising.”
Former IPS officer and lawyer YP Singh said it was a ‘lame excuse’ made by the prison authorities that they did not know the woman was pregnant. “The woman should have been given medical attention. It is just callousness on the part of the jail authorities who may have been waiting for her to go into labour, and then shift her to hospital.”
The former jail official said in addition to the jail doctor, there is a specialised prison ward at JJ hospital (ward no 44), where the inmate could have been kept. “Prison authorities should have got her admitted to the prison ward considering she was so heavily pregnant. This situation could have been avoided. Jail authorities are at fault,” he said.
Women’s rights lawyer Flavia Agnes said, “When a woman is sent to jail, several tests including a pregnancy test, are done, so there is no way prison authorities could not have known.”