Death of inmate Ankit Gujjar: HC seeks report from prison authority on protection of witnesses
The Delhi High Court Monday sought a status report from the prison authority on the steps taken to ensure the safety and security of witnesses in the alleged murder of inmate Ankit Gujjar in Tihar jail and directed that they be kept in a cell in an area under CCTV monitoring.
Justice Mukta Gupta, who last week transferred the investigation from Delhi Police to the CBI, saying the deceased "lost his life to custodial violence", also sought the medical report of two witnesses who were allegedly not receiving proper treatment despite suffering "grievous injuries" in the same incident of assault.
The CBI counsel informed the court that it has registered an FIR into the investigation.
Gujjar, 29, was found dead inside his cell in Tihar jail on August 4.
"Director General (Prisons) will file a status report indicating measures taken to ensure the safety and security of petitioners 1 to 3 is being maintained and also on surrender, safety and security of petitioners 4 and 5 will also be maintained.
DG will also ensure that the petitioners 1-3, in custody, and petitioners 4 and 5, who will surrender on September 24, are kept inside an area where the CCTV is fully functional so that the ingress and egress to the cell are properly monitored," ordered the judge.
The court was hearing a petition by the five witnesses seeking directions to ensure their safety and security as well as to restrain the authorities from "threatening/coercing/injuring them to prevent them from seeking justice for themselves and the deceased inmate".
"The Petitioners are all inmates of Delhi Prisons and are eyewitnesses to the brutal murder of one Ankit Gujjar (deceased), by Respondent No.1 officials, inside Central Jail No.3 on 03.08.2021," the petition reads.
Two of the petitioners, it is claimed, were the co-inmates of the deceased who were also victims of the same assault while the other three saw the public beating of the deceased and the events leading to his death.
Lawyer Mehmood Pracha, counsel for the petitioners, apprehended threat, injury, and pressure from officials to coerce them into changing their stand.
Two of the petitioners, who were released on interim bail on the same day, informed the deceased family about the events that transpired in jail and they are scheduled to surrender on September 24, he said.
"The sequence of events clearly demonstrates the existence of an imminent threat to the lives of the Petitioners because 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 reads.
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 opined that an investigation was needed into not only the offense of brutally beating the deceased but also into "the role of jail doctors in not providing proper treatment at the right time".
The court 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 about the beating of the deceased on the intervening night of August 3-4.
In the petition for transfer of investigation from 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".
The matter would be heard next on September 27.
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