New Delhi, March 18: Ram Singh’s three cell mates as well as the warden and guard were sleeping when the gang-rape accused allegedly hanged himself in Tihar jail, says a prison inquiry report sent to the Delhi government, according to a senior jail official.
The internal investigation report admits that no checks were run on the cells between 2am and 5am on March 11, the period during which Singh is said to have committed suicide, the source told The Telegraph.
Neither the Tihar administration nor the Delhi government has officially acknowledged the report or its contents. The director-general of Delhi prisons, Vimla Mehra, declined comment.
Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde had described Singh’s death as a “major security lapse” and the Delhi government has ordered an inquiry by a magistrate over and above the jail’s own investigation.
This is what the prison’s probe report says, according to the jail official who spoke to this newspaper:
On March 10 night, Singh had had a long conversation with his cell mates, who have said the 35-year-old was depressed.
Kishan, one of Singh’s cell mates, has said the conversation continued till midnight after which Singh and the others went off to sleep.
CCTV footage has revealed that the warden on duty that night, whose job was to monitor all the 20 cells in Ward No. 2, never left his cabin till the end of his nine-hour shift. (Under jail rules, the warden, who holds the rank of an assistant jail superintendent, should continually check the cells.)
Just one guard was on night duty for the entire ward (the prison manual stipulates a ratio of 1:6 between guards and inmates but in most Indian jails, the ratio is 1:100). This guard, from the Tamil Nadu Special Police, and the warden were asleep between 2am and 5am.
Around 5am, the warden and the guard woke up all the ward’s inmates for a headcount ahead of the 6am bath, after which all undertrials are expected to step out of their cells for prayers. That was when Singh’s body was found.
Tihar’s website says the jail has 12,113 inmates — twice its official capacity. Sources said almost 300 guards’ posts were vacant, as were 35 counsellors’ and psychiatrists’ posts.
Singh, the main accused in the gang-rape and murder case, had a deformed arm. The five-foot-three man is said to have fashioned a noose out of threads torn from his mat and clothes and hanged himself from a ventilator grille nine feet above the floor.
Questions have been raised about the monitoring and security of inmates at India’s highest-security jail by not just Singh’s death but also reports that fellow prisoners had repeatedly “raped” and beaten him.