PUCL Bulletin, January 2002


Jamshedpur, West Bengal
National Human rights Commission (NHRC) Document:
Investigation Report on Sakchi Jail Visit
By Chaman Lal


Complainant: Shri S. Bhattacharjee, President, PUCL Jamshedpur

As desired by the Commission vide it's proceedings dated 20 August, I visited Sakchi Jail Jamshedpur on 26.9.2001 to enquire into the allegations of: (a) Inhuman living conditions; (b) Corruption of jail staff; and (c) Two specific cases of custodial death.

I used this opportunity to carry out a detailed inspection of Sakchi Jail. My report is as follows:

I started the enquiry by contacting first the petitioner Mr. Bhattacharjee. He reiterated the facts and allegations made in his petition dated 21.11.2000 followed by letters dated 9.1.2000 and 28.5.2001. While stating that things have shown some improvement since the intervention of NHRC and that the jail staff seems to have become cautious and responsible, he asserted that mal-practices mentioned in his petition are still continuing.

Shri Shailesh Kumar Singh, Deputy Commissioner, Jamshedpur accompanied me to Sakchi Jail and remained present throughout. He also allowed on my recommendations Shri S. Bhattacharjee, President, Smt. Bhattacharjee, General Secretary and one more member of the PUCL to be present during the inquiry.

I visited ward No. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and all the general cells and spoke to inmates of the hospital and visited the TB and Leprosy cell and had a look at the water points and toilets. I also visited the female section and spoke to the inmates.

Over-crowding
Sakchi jail has the dubious distinction of being one of the most crowded jails of Jharkhand. It has a sanctioned capacity of 198 (189 males and 9 females), but 820 inmates including 31 women were found lodged. I was informed that the average strength fluctuates an overcrowding of 300%. 778 UTs constitute 94.8% of the total jail population. Two children were also found staying with their mothers.

Since the jail is holding only 39 convicts including one woman and all of them are associated with the guard duties, the segregation of UTs and convicts has not been affected. The living conditions in the wards accommodating 3-4 times the possible number are terribly bad as can be seen from the enclosed photographs showing the prisoners in lying position in two wards.

Around 150 inmates are accommodated in individual cells at the rate of 8-9 inmates in each cell. Though this arrangement is also unsatisfactory as the cells can reasonably accommodate not more that 4 inmates each, the situation in cells is far better than what is seen in the general ward. The inmates of the individual cells gave a clear impression of belonging to better social and economic background. This could be inferred from their reactions and replies to my observations and queries. Shri Ashok Kumar Chowdhry, Superintendent Jail could not offer any rational explanation for an obvious discrimination in allotment of accommodation to the inmates. I am, therefore, inclined to accept the allegations made by the petitioner that inmates are made to pay huge amount to get a relatively better or I should say less uncomfortable position to sleep.

Water Supply
Supply of water for drinking as well as bathing purposes is found to be satisfactory. Almost every one I spoke to confirmed that he is having daily bath. A number of taps were found leaking, some of them running freely because of minor defects which can be rectified and a huge wastage of water prevented.

Sanitation
The number of toilets - a total of 50 for an average population of 800 gives a scale of one seat for 16 inmates, which is far less than the reasonable scale of 1:8. I saw 12 new urinals made of beautiful tiles lying unused because only the enclosures have been built without providing the functional components. The DC assured that he will get this job completed within 15 days. He was requested to look into why the work was declared as complete without providing the essential fitments.

Hospital
Dr. Anant Lal Chowdhry, Medical Officer conducted me to the hospital and TB and Leprosy wards. 34 TB patients are undergoing treatment for TB. 12 inmates are being treated for leprosy. TB/leprosy patients of two neighbouring jails of Ghatshila and Ghaghridihi are also sent to this hospital. 5 cured leprosy patients have also been provided segregated. It is worth noting that almost all the cases of T. B were detected by the jail hospital and the results of the treatment are fairly good. Medicines are available in sufficient quantity and special diet is also being given as per Jail Manual.

The jail hospital has 33 beds. Normally 50 to 60 inmates can be seen occupying these beds. I went round the ward and felt that some of them did not in my opinion, require to be admitted to hospital. A few poor inmates showing Admission to hospital well in excess of the bed capacity, also gives rise to the suspicion of a price tag beyond the financial capacity of the poor among the inmates.

The hospital is authorised to have one Medical Officer and one Dresser. It has a functional X-ray machine which is being operated by the Dresser who was given ad-hoc training. We learnt that the Dresser Raghunandan Prasad has been working without receiving any wages since 1992. He was employed as a daily wager in 1987 and was being paid accordingly till 1992 on the basis of six monthly sanctions received from the IG (Prisons). The Medical Officer informed me that he was making some ad hoc and irregular payments to him for his services. I brought this matter to the notice of the Chief Secretary in our meeting at Ranchi on 28 September 2001 and he directed the IG (Prisons) who was also present to take immediate action for releasing the wages of this man with full arrears.

Kitchen
Hard-coke is being used in the kitchen, which releases a lot of smoke with hazardous consequences to the health of the Cooks. DC was advised to consider the possibility of switching over to Gas-cooking. IG (Prison) is requested to consider this for all the jails of Jharkhand.

Staff
The jail is authorised 1 Supdt., 1 Jailor, 1 Asstt. Jailor, 3 Head Wardens (male), 31 male and 3 Female Wardens. All the 3 posts of Head Wardens (male) and 12 of wardens (male) are lying vacant. After this jail was upgraded from sub-Jail to District jail, its authorisation needed to be raised by one Asstt. Jailor, 4 Head Wardens and 22 Wardens. The jail is being run with the help of the convicts who were doing all sorts of duty including the guard duty during night. Their hold over the UTs with all the undesirable ramifications of the practice can be very well imagined. Shri Bhattacharjee and a few other persons I contacted, informed me that the convicts employed on jail administration duties explain to the fresh entrant the inevitability of paying for various facilities of accommodation, food and hospital admission etc. They persuade and even coerce the UTs to purchase these facilities.

Problems of Undertrials
I reviewed the latest statement of undertrials. Out of a total of 781 UTs as many as 140 are in jail for a period of 3 years and above. 15 of them have completed 5 years. I heard a number of UTs in each ward in the presence of the Deputy Commissioner, Jail, the Supdt. and others. They had several complaints to make most relating to slow progress of their cases, unsatisfactory arrangements for transporting them to Court and back and poor lock-up conditions at courts. Many of them stated that they have to pay for the water that is supplied to them by a sole court employee put on this duty. They were unanimous in saying that the time for interview with families is not long enough to give them any meaningful relief and requested for extending it to the afternoon also.

I also held a separate meeting with them, which was attended by 18-20 UTs selected at random from different wards. Nobody from the district Administration or jail staff was present during this meeting. The petitioner (Dr. Bhattacharjee) was also debarred. In this meeting also, they made allegations about slow progress of their cases and unsatisfactory conditions in the court lock-ups. None of them said anything about the extortion by jail staff in the matter of allotting sleeping spaces, admission to hospital and interview to the families.

I had, before this, spoken to a couple of families standing outside the jail gate who had come for interview. Only two of them (Jitendra Sav and Anil Mehto) made allegations of payment. Though this limited inquiry conducted in the presence of the DC, Jail Supdt. and Dr. Bhattacharjee did not convincingly establish the charge of general corruption in the matter of interview. I got a feeling that the poor persons I was addressing, did not want to get involved in any messy affair. They appeared reconciled to a situation that ensures that they meet their kin in the jail.

The following specific complaints heard during the round of the Wards will give a fair idea of the extent to which the fundamental right to speedy trial is being actually enjoyed by the poor people of this country.

  1. Rajesh Prasad s/o Kishori Prasad (Session Trial No. 442/95) is an undertrial since 27.9.92. He was received from Ghaghridihi jail on 4.4.97. He said that he has not been produced before the court for over 4 years because the I.O. (Anil Singh Daroga) is not appearing.

  2. Motka Kudada s/o Gudrai Kodada (Session Trial No. 121/98) is an undertrial since 3.2.98. He said that the trial has stopped after examination of 4 witnesses. None of the remaining 4 witnesses in his case has appeared during the last one year.

  3. Gazi Kevat s/o Kailash kevat (Session Trial No. 375/97) is an undertrial since 31.3. 1997. He has appeared in the court twelve times since the framing of the charge without examination of a single witness till now.

  4. Amar Singh s/o Swarup Singh (Session Trial No. 656/96) is an undertrial since 14.5.96. He was received from Ghatshila jail on 18.1.98. His case-sheet shows that he has appeared before the court 36 times from this jail. He complained that not even one witness has appeared till date.

  5. Prem Ballabh Sardar s/o Ranjit Sardar (Session Trial No. 382/97) is an undertrial since 19.6.97. He said he is being escorted to court every month but has actually been produced only twice during the last four years.

  6. Kundan Kumar Singh (Session Trial No. 1063/99), Kishore Paryag (1065/99) Mohan Kisko (77/98) Sheetal Majhi (779/97) and Mukhtiar Anees (300/98) complained that all the witnesses in their cases have been examined but the trial is pending for a long time because I. Os are not appearing.

  7. Laxman Sanwar (Session Trial No, 731/86) u/s 302 IPC is an undertrial since 5.9.99. He said that not a single witness has been examined in his case during the last two years.

  8. Mohd. Safiq (Session Trial No. 141/97) is an undertrial in a murder/kidnapping case since 2.6.96. He complained that he is taken to court regularly but not produced even once in the past six years.

  9. Hari Mushla Mardi (Session Trial No. 9/97) is an undertrial in a case u/s 302/201 since 11.9.96. Seven witnesses have been examined. The trial is not progressing because of non-appearance of two witnesses. Gonu Kalindi {273/99) has a similar complaint. 10. Arvind @ Guni Mehto (2488/93) is an undertrial since 23.7.93. His case has been pending because no witness has ever turned up.

  10. UTs have been granted bail on dates falling between 29.9.99 and 30.8.2001. They could, however, not avail of bail because of their failure to produce sureties. No effort has been made to get their cases reviewed for considering their release on personal bond.

Problems of Convicts
I had a separate meeting with the convicts numbering 37. They were, by and large, satisfied with living conditions and treatment. They complained that the facility of parole admissible to them under the Jail Manual has been totally stopped. Mohan Majhi and Kuna Sanwar complained that they had filed a petition from jail but do not know whether the same has been admitted or not. Virendra Singh s/o Madan Mohan Singh submitted that he is a heart patient with diabetes. He was referred to RMCH 2-3 months back but could not be taken there because of non- availability of police escort.

13 convicts are 65 years or above in age. 3 of them are above 80. After seeing these persons and discussing their cases with the Jail Doctor, I feel the following should be considered for pre-mature release/bail on health grounds:

  1. Mukund Mahali s/o Late Pay tu Mahali is 85 years old. He is in this jail since 14.11.95 as an undertrial in session trial No. 117/96 -u/s 147, 148, 149, 323, 324 and 307 IPC. He is suffering from high-pertension, left-hemi parasis, KTN Anaemia.

  2. Bhim Murmu s/o Late Kono Murmu is 80 years old. He came on transfer from Ghatshila jail on 20.7.2001. He is an undertrial in session Trial number 148/2000 u/s 302, 307 and 34 IPC. He is suffering from Kock' s abdomen and pulmonary Tuberculosis.

  3. Kaka Singh s/o Late N. Singh is 75 years old. He is undertrial in GR No. 1034/2001 u/s 364 and 34 IPC. He is a case of Emphysema of bilateral lungs and Asthma.

  4. Hari Mahato s/o Late Manta Singh is 70 years old. A severe case of pulmonary TB. He is in this jail since 30.8.99 facing trial in Session Trial No. 53/2000 u/s 498(a), 302 and 34 IPC.

  5. Gurnam Singh s/o Late Manta Singh is 70 years old. He is in this jail since 10.11.99 facing trial in Session Trial No. 211/2000 u/s 302, 34 IPC. He is suffering from heart trouble, diabetes and enlarged prostate.

While going round the wards, I saw one undertrial kept in fetters. I was informed that Mujib Anwar, an undertrial in murder case had escaped from Daghidihi jail in August 1997. He was re-arrested in January 2001and has been kept in fetters since then. When I asked whether this was sanctioned by the trial court, the supdt. replied that the court has been informed. He failed to produce any document in support of his assertion. I ordered the removal of the fetters in the presence of the DC viewing it as a clear violation of the directions of the Supreme Court.

Women Prisoners
There is a separate enclosure for the women prisoners which is being looked after by the female staff. I met all the female prisoners - I convict and 30 undertrials. The undertrials complained about slow progress of their cases. Two children staying with their mothers are receiving milk as a special diet. I requested the DC to get it supplemented by cereals and fruit through his own sources or by involving some NGO in this charitable activity.

Jail Industries
There are no arrangements for imparting any vocational training to the convicts. The convicts are being employed on duties such as gardening, campus maintenance, cooking, hospital attendant and guarding etc. They are paid at rates varying from 8 to 12. The Supdt. informed that wages have not been paid after 1999 for want of allotment of funds. The matter was discussed with the Chief Secretary at Ranchi. Orders for allotment of Rs. 1,95,000 to Circle jail Jamshedpur were issued on 27.7.01.

Interview Facilities
Arrangements of interview with the families are not at all satisfactory. In a gallery measuring 15x51/2 ft. 25-30 prisoners are made to stand for interview with their families/friends standing opposite the windows. Only 12 prisoners were found standing in the gallery when I visited the place. I asked them as to how many are normally brought to the gallery at a time. That is how I came to know about the actual number. A number of inmates complained about inadequacies of this arrangement and requested for extension of space and time for interview.

Lok Adalats
Lok Adalats are being held in jails all over India under the directions of the Supreme Court. No Lok Adalats are reported to have been held in Sakchi Jail in the years 1998, 99 and 2000. The year 2001 records a single case of release of an undertrial as a result of his confession before the visiting Magistrate on 14 August 2001. The Jail Supdt. casually told me that no undertrial is willing to confess his guilt and as such the need for holding Lok Adalat has not been felt. I proved him wrong by speaking to UTs in 2 wards. We could identify 8-10 cases willing and eligible for production before a Lok Adalat. It is obvious that the Jail Administration has not bothered to use this possible avenue of reducing the congestion in jail.

Death in Jail
As per the statement put up by the Jail Supdt. there have been 4 cases of death in jail in 1999. NHRC was informed within 24 hours of the occurrence. However, the Commission does not seem to have received any intimation about the death of Bakil Gop on 3.8.1999. The post-mortem examination was conducted in each case and videograph also taken. The Jail Supdt. had written to the Deputy Commissioner requesting for Magisterial inquiry in these cases. However, no enquiries have been ordered till date. Shri Shailendra Kumar Singh, DC assured that Magisterial enquiries in all these cases will be done within two months and the Commission informed. In the year 2000, there have been 3 cases of death in this jail. Jail records show that the NHRC was informed within 24 hours of occurrence. Magisterial inquiry was done in 2 cases. One report is shown to have been sent to the NHRC also.

Two cases of death in jail have been reported in 2001. NHRC has been informed within 24 hours. Magisterial inquiry has been completed in one case.

I examined the records of the death of Mahendra Isha on 6.11.2000 and Omesh Paswan on 11.11.2000. The petitioner has mentioned these two cases in the complaint. Shri R.K. Sharma deputed by the DG (I), NHRC has examined these cases and declared that the first case was a case of death due to TB and the second one despite the post-mortem report attributing the cause of death to head injury did not reveal any foul play. He, however, blamed the jail Doctor for delay in diagnosis in both the cases. I discussed with Dr. A.K. Chowdhary of M.G.M Medical College Jamshedpur the post-mortem examination reports of these cases. The post- mortem report of Mahendra Isha clearly states that he was a chronic case of infection of mesentery (abdomen) and lungs. Unhygienic living conditions in the jail and delay in referring him to the M.G.M. Hospital must have made their own contribution to the cause of death, which was found to be chronic TB. He was admitted to jail on 27.10.2000 in case No. 248/2000 u/s 341, 323, 324 IPC with the directions of the Chief Judicial Magistrate that "Jail Doctor to (should) examine the accused and make necessary arrangements for the treatment". His medical examination shows some physical injuries suffered by the prisoner without any mention of his chronic affliction of TB. He remained under treatment in jail hospital from 27.10.2000 onwards. Though the Civil Surgeon gave permission to the Jail Doctor on 27.10.2000 for referring the prisoner to the MGM Hospital for specialised treatment, he was sent there on 6.11.2000 and died on the way. No Magisterial inquiry has so far been conducted in this case. The DC assured that he will get this inquiry conducted along with other pending cases and send reports to the NHRC within two months.

The case of Omesh Paswan, however, is different. He was 18/19 years old and the post-mortem report attributes his death to head injury. The jail records show that he fell down on ground adjacent to the toilet while urinating during night on 8.11.2000. The report about this fall was made by Sr. Warder Ram Bilas Pandey on 14.11.2000 i.e. three days after he died. The Jail Supdt., Jail Doctor and the Jailor admitted that they had come to know about the head injury suffered by Omesh Paswan after learning about the PM examination reported in the local papers. Magisterial inquiry in this case was done by Smt. Bandna Dandel, SDM, Dhalbhoom Jamshedpur. I came to know that the inquiry was conducted by Shri Manoj Kumar, Executive Magistrate Dhalbhoom and his report was forwarded as such to the OC by the SDM. In this inquiry report, reference is made to some injuries (simple in nature) suffered by the accused one year back when he was admitted to the prison in a theft case on 1.11.99. The Magisterial inquiry, however, attributes the death to fever despite the clear finding of the post-mortem report about the head injury. I do not know whether the magisterial inquiry report has been received by the NHRC. After discussion with Dr. A.K. Chowdhary, I have no doubt that this is a clear case of death due to custodial violence. In my opinion the Magisterial inquiry has been conducted very casually, if not unfairly to help the establishment. I have therefore requested the DC to verify all the facts personally and then send a report to the Commission for further examination.

Discussion with Dr. Chowdhary led to detection of one more case of unnatural death in Sakchi jail. Mohd. Musha, 50 years old was an undertrial since 8.5.2001 u/s 363/366(a)/376/341 IPC. He died on 23.5.2001. The post-mortem clearly states that the death was a result of a head injury caused by a hard and blunt object. The Deputy Commissioner was requested to send the post-mortem report and the videograph to the NHRC and order Magisterial inquiry immediately. He assured that Magisterial inquiry in 4 cases of 1999, I case of 2000 (one reportedly already sent) and 2 of 2001 will be sent to the Commission within two months.

Case of Death of Shri Krishanapada Sheel
Bhattacharjee met me at the Circuit House on 26th September (evening). He brought with him Shri Anindu Kumar Sheel, son and Smt. Shilpa Sheel, widow of Shri Krishnapada Sheel who had died on 4.8.2000 allegedly in jail before he was released on bail. Smt. Sheel and her son along with thedeceased were lodged in jail on 25.7.2000 in a complaint case lodged at the instance of the second wife of the deceased. Shri Anindu Kumar Sheel told me that after they were admitted to Jail, they were informed by the Ward In-charge that a detenue has to pay Rs. 2000 for sleeping facility. They were also apprised of the running rates for interview and canteen services (canteen run by a private party has since been closed). Since Shri Sheel was a chronic asthma patient, the Jail Medical Officer was repeatedly requested to refer him to an outside hospital. The doctor did not take any serious notice of this request and was also telling Anindu Kumar that somebody should be asked to contact him in this connection. Dr. Bhattacharjee told me that he had met the doctor twice with the same request. However, no arrangements were made and Shri Krishna Dada Sheel remained in jail till 4.8.200 when bail was granted. Jail records show that he was released at 5.10 pm. His family says that he had died before his release but the jail staff dumped the body in Maruti van in order to show that it was not a case of death of jail. The post-mortem report indicates the probable time of death being around 6/6.30 pm. Though it was not an admitted case of death in jail the post-mortem was conducted on the insistence of the family. This case calls for a detailed examination. I advised Dr. Bhattacharjee to send a separate petition stating all the facts and allegations and mentioning the witnesses in support of each so that the matter could be looked into properly.

Mandatory Visits by Officials
One reason for the sad state of affairs at this jail is the fact that IG (Prisons) has not visited this jail even once in 1998, 1999 and 2000. The first visit by the IG (prison) was on 20 May 2001. There has been no visit by any one from the judiciary in all these years as per the Visitors' register. Only from 2001 the CJM Jamshedpur has started visiting the jail. Rule 43 of the Jail manual says that the DC will visit the jail at least once a month. It further says, "This task shall not be delegated to any officer subordinate to him". The visitor's register does not show any visit by the DC since 1998 (earlier record not seen).

Board of Visitors
No Board has been constituted after the period of the last Board expired in November 2000. DC was requested to send nominations to the IG (Prisons) immediately. Rule 49 of the Jail Manual says that the Board of Visitors will carry out quarterly inspection of the jail. A truly functional Board can effectively check many malpractices and tone up jail administration


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