Delhi HC orders CBI probe into Ankit Gujjar’s ‘custodial killing’
The Delhi high court on Wednesday transferred the probe in the alleged custodial killing of 29-year-old Ankit Gujjar on August 4 at Tihar jail to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), saying that he lost his life to “custodial violence in violation of his constitutional rights”.
“Consequently, this court deems it fit to transfer the investigation of case FIR No.451/2021 under sections 302/323/341/34 IPC registered at PS Hari Nagar, Delhi to CBI. The case file be transferred to CBI immediately by the concerned police station. A status report will be filed by the concerned SP, CBI after carrying out investigation before this court well before the next date of hearing,” justice Mukta Gupta said.
The judge said that if the allegations of extortion by Gujjar’s family are correct, “it is a very serious offence which requires in-depth investigation”. She said the injuries on Gujjar’s body indicated that he was “brutally beaten” and “left unattended”.
“Walls of prison, howsoever high they may be, the foundation of a prison is laid on the rule of law ensuring the rights to its inmates enshrined in the Constitution of India,” the court said.
The judgment comes on a plea by Gujjar’s mother, Geeta, who sought a CBI probe into the alleged murder of her son.
In her plea, Gujjar’s family contended that he was being harassed by the jail officials as he was “unable to meet their regularly increasing demands for money”, and was murdered “as a part of pre-planned conspiracy”.
In her plea, Geeta said her son was murdered “as part of a pre-planned conspiracy”.
The gangster’s family have named Tihar deputy superintendent Narendra Meena, three constables, and an assistant superintendent in the FIR. However, the other accused have not been named in the report. HT has seen the copy of the FIR, in which police have also noted allegations of bribery and extortion by jail officers.
According to officials, Meena and three others have been suspended a pending magisterial inquiry and police investigation.
Deputy superintendent Meena told the investigating officer that they conducted an inspection inside Gujjar’s cell on April 3 afternoon and found a cell phone, a data cable, and a knife.
Meena said Gujjar and two other inmates of the cell number 3 assaulted him and other officials, after which Gujjar was transferred to another cell, and the other two prisoners were sent to a different cell. Jail officers told the investigating officer that between 6am and 6.30am on August 4, when they went to check on Gujjar during the roll-call, he was found unconscious and taken to the jail hospital, where Gujjar was declared “brought dead” by doctors.
Justice Mukta Gupta on Wednesday said that even when Ankit got injured and was alive, he was not given proper medical treatment so that his life could have been saved. It said that an investigation needs to be carried out not only to the extent as to who committed the offence of brutally assaulting him, but also the role of jail doctors in not providing proper treatment at the right time is required to be ascertained by a proper inquiry.
“Not only did Narender Meena and others assault the deceased mercilessly, the jail doctor on duty also failed to perform his duty when he examined Ankit at 1am in the intervening night of August 3-4 and administered an injection, and he neither informed the senior officers about Ankit’s condition nor referred Ankit to the hospital,” the judge said.
CCTV switched off
Citing a prison report, HT reported on September 4 that between 9.30am on August 3 and 4.50pm on August 4, when Gujjar allegedly got into a scuffle with jail officers and was found unconscious in another part of the prison, CCTV cameras inside ward 1 and 5A of Tihar jail 3 were switched off for “maintenance work”.
The judge said the case calls for immediate remedial actions by the state and director general (prisons) so that unscrupulous officers at the jail do not take advantage of knowledge of the non-working of the CCTVs so that they can get away by doing any illegal act/offences.
The court told the director general (prisons) to file a status report indicating the measures taken to streamline the system as regards the CCTV cameras in the jail and what alternative measures can be taken when they are not working. It also asked for accountability to be fixed of the jail officers and doctors, and the mechanism by which immediate entry is provided to the police to the jail on receipt of an information of a cognisable offence.
Gujjar’s family, through advocate Mehmood Pracha, argued that the police were not conducting investigation in proper format as the digital video recorder of the CCTV in the jail was yet to be recovered, and the aspect of extortion of money by jail officials through online transactions was not being looked into.
The plea also submitted that the jail authorities in Tihar were operating an “organised extortion syndicate” and the police were trying to manipulate the investigation in order to save and shield the culprits.
The judge said the DG (Prisons) “failed to notice the connivance/laxity” of the jail deputy superintendent who did not permit the local police to go inside the jail to inquire into the call made to the local police in connection with the incident on the night of August 3.
A departmental inquiry, conducted by the DG (Prisons) Sandeep Goel, into Gujjar’s death has found “negligence” on the part of certain prison staffers, officials said on Monday.
“Appropriate departmental action will be taken against them (staff),” Goel said.
The court will next hear the case on October 28.