Death of inmate Ankit Gujjar: Ensuring safety and security of witnesses, prison authority tells HC



NEW DELHI: The prison authority Monday told the Delhi High Court that directions have been passed to ensure the safety and security of inmates who are witnesses in the case concerning the alleged murder of inmate Ankit Gujjar in Tihar jail and they are being lodged in an area under the CCTV surveillance.

In its status report, the Director-General of Prisons told Justice Mukta Gupta that the same arrangement will be made for witnesses who are presently out on interim bail.

The judge said that given the authority’s stand, no further court orders are called for on the petition by five inmates seeking directions to ensure their safety as well as to restrain the authorities from “threatening/coercing/injuring them with a view to prevent them from seeking justice for themselves and the deceased inmate”.

The status report said “two CCTV cameras are installed inside their (two inmates) cell and 24×7 footage of cell is being closely monitored by the officials whenever inmates are locked out from their cell, they are escorted by two Tamil Nadu special police personnel. Two CCTV cameras are installed inside barrack and one camera is installed out the gallery (for the third inmate).”

“As and when (the other two inmates). Surrender before the jail authorities, they shall be lodged after due consideration towards their safety and security,” it added.

“The jail staff on duty has been briefed for keeping adequate safety and security of these prisoners and also to keep a close watch on their movements,” it further said.

Earlier this month, the court, which has transferred the investigation from Delhi police to CBI after opining that the deceased “lost his life to custodial violence”, had sought a status report from the prison authority on the steps taken to ensure the safety and security of the witnesses.

Gujjar, 29, was found dead inside his cell in Tihar jail on August 4.

The Petitioners, represented by lawyer Mehmood Pracha, claimed to be eyewitnesses to the allegedly “brutal murder” of Gujjar.

Two of the petitioners, it was claimed, were the co-inmates of the deceased and also victims of the same assault while the other three saw the public beating of the deceased and the events leading to his death.

“The sequence of events clearly demonstrates the existence of an imminent threat to the lives of the petitioners on account of the fact that they are eyewitnesses to a gruesome and brutal murder inside the jail premises by influential and powerful jail officials, at the behest of the highest rung authorities of the administration,” the plea said.

In its order passed on September 8, the court had stated that the post-mortem report of the deceased “belies the version” of the jail officials that a scuffle took place in which both Deputy Superintendent and Gujjar received injuries.

Saying that it is unfathomable that the jail doctor failed to see the multiple injuries on the deceased, the court had opined that an investigation was needed into not only the offence of brutally beating the deceased but also into “the role of jail doctors in not providing proper treatment at the right time”.

The court had observed that the DIG 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 PCR call made concerning the beating of the deceased on the intervening night of August 3-4.

In the petition for transfer of investigation from the Delhi police, the family of the deceased inmate alleged that Gujjar 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 a pre-planned conspiracy”.

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