Prison officials do not need to resort to violent methods to manage their jails, and just because a person in uniform is inflicting the violence the act does not get decriminalised, the Delhi High Court today said while ordering a CBI probe into an alleged attack on inmates of a high risk ward in Tihar Jail last year.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar directed the officials of Tihar Jail to forward to the CBI all the records as well as the reports of two fact finding committees set up to look into the incident of November 21 last when 18 prisoners were allegedly beaten up by the prison staff.
The court asked the agency to examine the records and "conduct such other and further inquiry, as necessary, to ascertain culpability of the persons implicated in the committee reports or otherwise found culpable in its investigation".
It said that more details regarding the incident may be brought forth if an expert investigating agency like the CBI is looking into it and directed the jail officials to fully cooperate with the agency's probe.
The CBI was directed to file its action taken report within four weeks and the matter was listed for further hearing on July 10.
The court was hearing a PIL by advocate Chinmay Kanojia, who has alleged that his client Shahid Husuf, being investigated by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and undergoing trial, was beaten up without any reason by the Tihar Jail staff.
The plea has said a particular community, including Husuf, were being targeted by the jail staff causing serious injuries to him and others.
During the hearing in the matter, Delhi government standing counsel (criminal) Rahul Mehra told the bench that while excesses were committed by the jail staff and personnel of Tamil Nadu Special Police, criminal proceedings may not be initiated against them as they are working under stressful conditions in an overcrowded prison.
Mehra said that any criminal proceeding may bring down the morale of the force which is guarding the prison, especially its high security wards, and said "how will we manage our jails".
To this, the bench said,"You do not need to resort to violence to manage your jails. This has to stop. We are not going to condone custodial violence. Law does not change just because the person in custody is charge with or convicted of heinous offences. Prisoners are also human beings. An act does not get decriminalised just because the person doing it is in uniform."
The court said that the facts and circumstances in the instant case are prima facie sufficient to justify a more detailed investigation and if necessary, prosecution of the persons responsible for the incident of custodial violence.
The high court had earlier termed as "very disturbing" the alleged attack on inmates lodged in a high-risk ward in jail number 1 of the central jail on the night of November 21.
When the incident was brought to the attention of the high court on November 22, the court had set up a committee of senior high court judicial officers to look into the matter.
The committee, in its report, had opined that the inmates were beaten up without any justifiable reason.
It had said that despite unequivocal statutory guidelines, an incident has been perpetrated where prisoners were beaten up with such severity that it had resulted in them harbouring a constant fear of being killed by the prison authorities on one pretext or another.
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