Incarcerated senior inspector and encounter specialist Pradeep Sharma has spent around 50% of his jail time so far in a hospital.
This was revealed after jail authorities wrote letters in May 2012 to the Mumbai and Thane police commissioners, and the civil surgeon of Thane civil hospital, where Sharma got himself admitted 54 times, ever since his arrest in January 2010.
Sharma was arrested in connection with allegedly staging the encounter of suspected Chhota Rajan aide Ram Narain Gupta, alias Lakhan Bhaiyya, in November 2006. The trial is still on in the case.
According to the contents of the letter accessed by Hindustan Times, Sharma has, in the course of the 54 visits, spent 361 days in the Thane civil hospital between January 2010 and mid-April 2012. On most occasions he has complained of spondilytis.
When questioned about the contents of the letter, inspector general (prisons) Surinder Kumar said: “Sharma has been recuperating at the Thane civil hospital for quite a while. We are concerned about his security, as the level of police presence at the hospital cannot be on a par with the security blanket in the jail.”
In the letter, the jail authorities have recommended that if Sharma’s condition is grave, he could be kept at the prisoners’ ward (ward no 44) at JJ hospital. Entry to this ward is not easy as it is enclosed from all sides like a jail. Else, the letter states, he could be shifted back to the Thane jail.
Sharma’s lawyer Sudeep Pasbole told HT: “ I am not aware about the details as I joined the case at a later stage.”
An officer who did not wish to be named as he is not authorised to talk to the media, said: “Even after the letter has been sent, Sharma has been in the hospital for around 20 days.”
HT has learnt that apart from the safety issue, the authorities are concerned that Sharma seems to be getting preferential treatment. An officer told HT: “It seems highly implausible that he has been unwell for so long. Unlike in jail, he can meet anybody he wants in a hospital, and also get access to facilities. This is probably why he gets himself admitted to the hospital every now and then.”
When HT asked RB Kulkarni, civil surgeon, Thane civil hospital, whether he had received a letter from the jail authorities, he said: “I will need to check.”
In November 2006, gangster Lakhan Bhaiya, believed to be a close aide of Chhota Rajan, was killed in an encounter in Versova. Seventeen policemen, including encounter specialists Pradeep Sharma and Pradeep Suryavanshi, were accused in the case and arrested along with two civilians. Lakhan’s brother and advocate Ram Prakash Gupta filed a petition in the high court, alleging that his brother had been shot dead in cold blood.