Gangter’s death in Tihar cell: Delhi high court says injuries point to torture during custody
The Delhi high court on Thursday observed that the nature of injuries on Ankit Gujjar’s body, who was found dead inside his cell at Tihar jail on August 4, clearly suggested that it was case of “custodial violence and torture”.
Justice Mukta Gupta, while hearing a plea by Gujjar’s mother who demanded a CBI probe into the alleged murder of her son, said the statements by the eye witnesses given to the police indicated that he was not only beaten, but CCTV was also shut by errant jail officials during the incident.
“Nature of injuries clearly show that it’s a case of custodial violence/torture. It’s a very serious matter, how did the CCTV get closed… You see the manner in which the incident has taken place. He (deputy superintendent) not only beats but also gets the CCTV shut down... It’s not simply the case of a departmental enquiry. A life has been lost,” the judge said.
The court, while reserving its order on demand for a CBI probe, said the incident involved a larger issue of extortion by jail officials.
The post-mortem report describes “haemorrhage because of the cumulative effect of multiple blunt force injuries” as the cause of Gujjar’s death.
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 jail 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, data cable, and 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. The 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 of inmates, he was found unconscious and was rushed to the jail hospital. Gujjar was declared brought dead by the doctors at the hospital.
“The nature of injury clearly shows that it is a case of custodial violence... There is no escape to it. It is writ large that it is a case of custodial violence and who has done it is also very clear,” the judge said.
Mehmood Pracha, the counsel for Gujjar’s family, contended that the alleged gangster 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”. Pracha argued that the “police was not conducting investigation in proper format” as the digital video recorder of the CCTV installed in the jail was yet to be recovered and the aspect of extortion of money by jail officials was not being probed.
Prosecution’s counsel Ranbir Kundu said the investigation by the local police was going on in a fair manner. He sought two weeks to give a complete report on the progress of the investigation.
In its status report, the jail administration has stated that four officials, including the Deputy Superintendent, have been suspended and eight others have been shifted from Central Jail No.3 and ordered to report to the Superintendent, PHQ till further orders.
Until his arrest in August 2020, Gujjar, 29, was one of western Uttar Pradesh’s most wanted person.