Prison Conditions Case Study

Arrah, Bihar

(From PUCL Bulletin, Nov 1981)

See also,
Jails in India: An investigation
Case Study: Tihar, Delhi
Case Study: Sakchi, Jamshedpur

Bihar jails have been notorious for blatant violations of the Jail Manual and barbarous treatment of priso-ners 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 circum-stances. 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 exami-nation 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 informa-tion 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 ~'nd 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 ad-mitted 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 discharg-ed from the hospital. The bed 'head ticket' shows that then Ramu Kurmi had no mental ailment. Only weak-ness 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 Superin-tendent 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.


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