Thursday, March 20, 2014

17 unaccounted deaths in 21 months in Beur jail

In a disclosure due to RTI it has come to light that following prisoners from Beur jail have died  in 21 months from January 2012 to September 2013- 
1. Bhagwan Ram died on January 5, 2012
2. Vinay Kumar Sinha died on 28 March 2012
3. Rajesh Yadav alias Pintu died on April 26, 2012
4. Suresh Rai died on 2 May, 2012
5. Jattu Kumar died on 2 June, 2012
6. Sudhir Kumar alias Pradeeep Ghos died on 11 July, 2012
7. Nagendra alias Naresh Singh died on 13 August, 2012
8. Girija Singh 
9. Ramlal Sharma died on 24 September, 2012
10. Sohan Paswan died on 4 October, 2012
11. Kamlesh Kumar Singh died on 4 November, 2012
12. Uday Rai died on 10 January, 2013
13. Valmiki Sonar died on 30 January, 2013
14. Talkeshwar Ojha died on 26 March, 2013
15. Pintu Singh died on 20 April, 2013
16. Sahdev Mahto died on 24 April, 2013
17. Rakesh Thakur died on 13 September, 2013

Jail officials have claimed that these prisoners died in the Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH). But PMCH officials refuse this claim stating that no prisoner from Beur jail have died in PMCH. This scandalous information has been gathered by Ravish Kumar of Patna district. Prabhat Khabar published this big story on its front page on March 18, 2014. Bihar Human Rights Commission is likely to issue notice in the matter. Meanwhile, Nitish Kumar took cognisance of the news report and sought a report and got it within a day. The report has not been made public as yet.

Bihar has 56 jails at present that includes 8 central jails, 31 district jails and 17 sub-jails. These jails have capacity to house 33119 prisoners. RTI applications in these jails is likely to reveal similar cases of unaccounted deaths. 

The Bihar government had approved new jail manual on 11 December 2012 which  has provision for elaborate computer generated record of inmates including their voice samples, replacing the existing 88-year-old prison guidelines formulated in 1924. 

The new guidelines are as following:-
• The new guideline has provisions for computerization of records including the works done by inmates. 
• Under the new manual, visitors to the jails would be registered through computer.  
• Visitors complex would be established in all the jails where visitors' photographs would be taken on computer along with their fingerprints.
• The jails would have elaborate computer generated details of inmates including their voice recordings. 
• Separate wards would be created in jails for inmates aged between 18 to 21 years to keep them away from hardcore criminals.
• Close circuit cameras would be set up in jails to keep a tab over affairs inside including standard of food served to the inmates.

Earlier, a complaint case was filed in a local court against the Beur prison's jailer and jail superintendent in connection with the death of an undertrial inmate under mysterious circumstances on May 28, 2011.  Quoting the jail superintendent as having informed him on telephone on May 28, 2011 that his relative lodged in Beur jail had consumed poisoned and was admitted in the PMCH for treatment, the complainant urged the court to take cognizance of the matter and order a probe as to how and from where the poisonous substance had reached the jail premise.

In the complaint case filed by the deceased inmate Mithilesh Singh's cousin Sudhir Singh, the jailer and the jail superintendent of the Beur prison have been charged with sections 302 (punishment for murder), 120 (B)(punishment of criminal conspiracy and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the IPC for allegedly causing mental and physical torture to the undertrial at the behest of some criminals lodged in the jail. 

The Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) Surendra Prasad Singh had admitted the complaint case and transferred the same to the Judicial Magistrate Namita Chandra. This was reported by PTI on May 31, 2011. 

Prior to this Patna High Court on April 26, 2011 ordered the Bihar government to pay a compensation of Rs 2.5 lakh to a woman whose husband died while in custody in Beur jail. Justice V. N. Singh passed the order on a petition filed by Premsheela Devi seeking compensation for the death of her husband Sunil Kumar in Beur Jail due to medical negligence. The Court directed the State government to pay the compensation to the petitioner within 60 days of its order. The judge upheld the petitioner's contention that her husband had died in Beur Jail on December 1, 2000, due to medical negligence on the part of the jail authorities. According to prosecution, Kumar was arrested by Kankarbagh police in connection with a robbery case in 1997 and lodged in Beur jail where he contracted tuberculosis as diagnosed on April 16, 2000. The Beur jail authorities provided medical treatment to the undertrial, but his condition continued to worsen following which the doctors referred him to the PMCH, vide their letter dated November 12, 2000.However, the jail authorities could not take Kumar to the PMCH for unspecified reasons and he succumbed to the ailment on December 1, 2000, in the jail. This was reported by PTI on April 27, 2011. 

PUCL Bulletin of November 1981 published the case study of Prison Conditions
Arrah, Bihar. The study is reproduced below:

Bihar jails have been notorious for blatant violations of the Jail Manual and barbarous treatment of prisoners by the jail authorities so much so that at times even some of their own ilk find it unpalatable. Here is a report of a Superintendent of Police from Bihar on the death of a prisoner which also speaks volumes about the way our jails are managed.

An article published in the monthly magazine "Ravivar" (March 8, 1981) reported the death of Ramu Kurmi in Arrah jail under mysterious circumstances. After reading the article, the District Officer of Bhojpur ordered the Executive Magistrate, J. Mohanan, to investigate the case under Section 176 of the Indian Penal Code. Mohanaii submitted a detailed report of his investigation to the District officer which confirmed that Ramu Kurmi died in circumstances that were mysterious. While Mohanan's report has been sent for necessary action, the District Officer ordered the concerned police station in Arrah city to file a case under Section 302 of the IPC against the concerned jail officials. From Mohanan's report it was amply clear that the officials of Arrah jail grossly violated the jail rules.

1. The jailer failed to inform the District Magis-trate news of Ramu Kurmi's transfer to the Sadar
-Hospital, and then of his death there.
2. Both the Superintendent and the Jailer failed to conduct a detailed inquiry into the cause of Ratuu Kurmi's death. They also failed to report the death to the I.G. Prisons.
3. The jail doctor failed to conduct a proper examination of Ramu Kurmi before he was sent to Sadar Hospital.
4. Nor did the jail doctor advise the Superintendent/ Jailer to report the matter to the District Magistrate before Kurmi was sent to hospital.
6. Strangely enough the jail doctor also did not consider the inquest essential nor did he advise the Superintendent/Jailer accordingly.
7. The Chief Medical Officer-cum-Civil Surgeon did not give clear instructions to the jail doctor or advise the Superintendent/Jailer about the need for the un-avoidable inquest.

According to statements of Shiv Poojan Kurmi, brother of the deceased, Ramu Kurmi was charged under Sections 399, 402 IPC/26 at Arrah city police station and was in the jail since September 20, 1978.

On September 10, 1980, he learnt from some people that his brother had been injured and admitted to the district hospital. On getting this information he went to the hospital, and met his brother, whom he found in a very bad shape. His forehead, nose, lips and thighs bore marks of wounds which were bleeding. Ramu Kurmi spoke with great difficulty that he was beaten by the policemen.

A little later, on the same day, Shiv Poojan learnt about his brother's death. After receiving the information he went to the jail but the body of the deceased ,was not handed over to him since the post-mortem had not been conducted. After postmortem, Ramu Kurmi's body was handed over to him the next day around II a.m. He also said that about 15 days before the incident he had met his brother and given him some clothes. Then the deceased had shown no signs of madness. A newsman had photographed Ramu Kurmi and had given Shiv Poojan a copy of the photograph. On seeing the photograph it was evident that the body had wound marks on its rights hand, ribs, chest and forehead. Magistrate Mohanan had summoned Shiv Kurmi in the course of his enquiry but he could not be present by the time the report was submitted. After the report's submission he met the magistrate and gave the statement as recorded above. Hotel owner Madan Prasad corroborated that Ramu Kurmi had told his. brother Shiv Kurmi in his presence that a sepoy had beaten him in the jail.

The records of Arrah jail reveal that the deceased Ramu Kurmi was brought to Arrah jail on September 27,. 1978. He was remanded under the following cases-
1. 2030 G.R./69, Trial No. 98/78-City Police Station 26/12/69, Section 379 IPC. 2. Lesson trial No. 108/74 City Police Station Case No. 12/11/72, Section 399, 402 of IPC 25/A/26 Act.

In the jail admission register Rama Kurmi has been shown from the village Beend Toli, Arrah City. Later his family shifted to Sheetal Toli from Beend Toli. His age in the jail register is shown as 35 years. It also appears from the jail register that Ramu Kurmi was admitted to the jail hospital on September 8, 1980. In the column relating to illness, debility and mental derangement have been mentioned. This is said to be recorded in prisoner Ram Prasad's hand writing.

The jail hospital has opened an observation register which shows that Ramu Kurmi was taken there for observation on September 1, 1980 and was under obser-vation till the 7th of the month. In the observation register initially his name was recorded as Ramu Nomia for seven days and was later changed to Ramu Kurmi. On September 8, 1980, he was formally admitted to the hospital. 

The hospital register shows that his name was recorded as Ramu Kurmi and his age was mentioned to be 25 years, whereas he is shown to have been of 35 years of age in the jail register. Ramu Kurmi was transferred to the hospital on September 8, 1980, at 1.50 p.m; and he is shown to have died there -the same day at 7.20 p.m. In the jail admission register he is shown to have been discharged on September 10,1980. This is in prisoner Ram Prasad Ram's hand-writing. In the admission register the word 'discharge' has been crossed and the doctor's signature is there. The jail officers said that since Ramu Kurmi was only transferred to the district hospital the use of the word discharged was not appropriate.

The then jail doctor Kailash Pati Sahai has been transferred and he could not present himself for his statement on that count. He has been informed. In column 11 of the jail admission register there is a men-tion of his (Ramu Kurmi's) presence in the Magistrate's Court but the column has not been filled since October 23, 1978. In it; absence it is difficult to say on which days he was presented before the Magistrate.

It is evident from the jail hospital record book that the civil surgeon had examined Ram Kurmi on August 20, 1980. 

His opinion after the examination was as follows
"Examined one Ramu Kurmi (under observation for mental illness) at the district jail, and found him in filthy dress and symptoms of mental aberra-tion maniacal variety. He needs hospitalization at mental hospital Kanke (Ranchi) for treatment."

The hospital admission register shows that earlier Ramu Kurmi Naunia was admitted there from May 4, 1980 to July 5,1980. On July 5, 1980, he was discharged from the hospital. The bed 'head ticket' shows that then Ramu Kurmi had no mental ailment. Only weakness is mentioned.

Ramu Kurmi was presented before the third addi-tional magistrate under Arrab City M. 5. 12/11/72 Sections 399, 402 of IPC 25,'A/26 A. Act). On the basis of the civil surgeon's report of 20.8.80 of Ramu Kurmi's examination, the third additional magistrate was urged to send Ramu Kurmi to the mental hospital at Kanke. The concerned court allowed the require and the order was sent to the jail officials date4 August 27, 1980. This was signed by the concerned dealing clerk, Keshav Ojha. 

His signature was there on August 28, 1980. The jail stamp is however not there. But it is regrettable that Ramu Kurmi. was not sent to the mental hospital even after the receipt of court orders to that effect. Instead he was kept under observation from September 1, 1980 till September 7, 1980. This means that his condition must have become worse in this period but still no effort was made to send him to Kanke hospital. Jail Superintendent J.N. Tiwari and other jail officials could offer no satisfactory explanation.

Investigations conducted so far show that it is a fit case under Section 302 of IPC. There is no reason to disbelieve the statements of Shiv Poojan Kurmi and Madan Prasad. By banging the head against the wall or by falling on a cot or the floor it is unlikely that the lungs and liver would he ruptured. Nor can four ribs break in this manner. There is no evidence of Ramu Kurmi's madness before August 1980. How he suddenly become insane is intriguing. The jail doctor and the jailor have been transferred. The Jail Superintendent D. N. Tiwari, however, is still posted here. His transfer also seems necessary in the interest of investi-gation. His presence here will impede the process of discovering the truth. Therefore, Inspector General of jails is requested to transfer him with immediate effect. The rules of the jail manual have been grossly violated, as has been mentioned above.
The deaths between January 2012 to September 2013 underline that nothing has changed in Bihar jails.     

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