Prisoners die in jails often and allegations of torture also emerge, but the Bathinda Central Jail official will regret it happened in the presence of Simranjit Singh Mann, president of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar).
At 7pm on Wednesday, inmate Jogpreet Singh of Soondh village in Nawanshahar was found hanged in a bathroom, and the other prisoners went on hunger strike over his alleged torture by the jail authorities.
Jogpreet had been charged under Sections 363 (kidnapping), 366 (abduction), and 376 (rape) of the Indian Penal Code at women's police station in Nawanshahar and a court had sentenced him to seven years of imprisonment.
On January 1, 2011, Jogpreet had been transferred to Bathinda from the Hoshiarpur jail. The man hanged himself, say prison officials, but he was more than 6 feet and the bathroom less than 6.5-foot tall.
The prisoners on hunger strike charged the jail authorities with regular physical and mental torture of inmates. "On Wednesday, before the death of Jogpreet, the jail authorities, including a doctor and some policemen, had beaten him up," said prisoner Amarjit Sharma.
"They tortured him and other prisoners regularly." Jogpreet's death is fourth inside this prison in two months. Three deaths came in February. The condition of the inmates and treatment given to them had all come into question. Prisoners Ashwini (23), Preetam (85), and Balwant Singh (75) died within a week.
Bathroom's height in doubt
The height of bathroom where Jogpreet hanged himself is between 6.5 feet and 7 feet, jail superintendent Prem Kumar Garg has claimed. "The inquiry is in the hands of the deputy commissioner," he said. "The prisoner hanged himself with a rope. The reports of torture and strike are false."
Simranjit Singh Mann, president of the SAD (A), who was about to be released from the jail on the high court order, added fuel to doubt. "It's shameful that no jail official looked into the suspicious circumstances of death," he said. "The prisoners were on hunger strike until I convinced them to end it."
SAD (A) chief free
After he secured bail from the Punjab and Haryana high court, Mann was released on Thursday evening from the Bathinda central jail.