A three-member probe ordered by Delhi High Court has found that prisoners Ahtasham, Asadullah, Rahman and Sajid suffered fractures and 15 others sustained injuries in the unprovoked November 21 assault carried out by members of Tamil Nadu Special Police and Quick Response Team inside the notorious Tihar Jail in the national capital.
NEW DELHI — On the night of November 21, around two dozen prisoners facing trial in alleged terror cases were brutally assaulted, without any reason and provocation, by the policemen deployed inside the high-security Jail Number 1 of Tihar in New Delhi. The assault was so brutal that on the petitions of their counsels Chinmay Kanojia and Jawahar Raja, the Delhi High Court had to order an enquiry the very next day (November 22).
Advocate Kanojia had presented prisoner Syed Yusuf’s “blood-soaked vest” before the court as proof. Another advocate MS Khan had filed petition on behalf of his clients Suhail Ahmed, Mohd Obaidullah Khan and Imran in a lower court and made similar allegations.
The three-member probe panel of Delhi High Court, comprising Joint Registrar (Rules) Reetesh Singh, Lorren Bamniyal Registrar (Appellate) and Advocate Harsh Prabhakar, submitted their 111-page report of gory details to the High Court on Monday.
The panel found that the November 21 assault was “unilateral aggression against unarmed prisoners” and “one-sided act of violence” by TSP and QRT personnel. It also found a “blatant effort” by jail authorities to cover their acts.
Tihar’s Additional Inspector General Raj Kumar told the panel that the incident was the result of an argument between the prisoners and the search team. But injured prisoners told the panel a different story and CCTV footage established their version. The victims said that a search for pillow covers was conducted around 8.30 pm by the TSP personnel in the Ward C of Jail number 1 but at 9.15 pm, the police personnel began the assault on them using “fibre” and “wooden sticks”.
The panel said in the report that the CCTV footage did not show anything that could justify the use of force by the police personnel. The report says that at least 18 prisoners sustained injuries in the attack.
The Tamil Nadu Special Police (TSP) is responsible for the security and safety of inmates lodged in the high-risk ward in Jail Number 1.
The Indian Express has published two extracts from the report:
On Ward C: “No inmate came outside ward C. From within the ward, three pillows were seen thrown out by the TSP personnel… There was no provocation noticed by the inmates of ward C. However, a sense of panic is noticed… and at 9.21 pm, TSP personnel in large numbers are seen entering the ward and beating the inmates mercilessly with batons, buckets, everything else that they could lay their hands on. There was no resistance by any of the prisoners and severe injuries are seen being inflicted on the prisoners for four minutes… Now the QRT swung into action at Ward C at 9.30 and started beating the selective few and the beatings administered are severe and harsh.”
On Ward F: “The search started at 8.35 pm… and some prisoners are stated to have argued with SI Muthu Pandi, in-charge of the search operation… The prisoners are in a state of panic and at 9.26 pm, TSP personnel in very large numbers are seen entering Ward F and mercilessly and indiscriminately conducting lathi charge… The QRT entered at 9.34 pm and once again beat the prisoners indiscriminately.”
HC Orders Judicial Probe
A bench of acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar termed the details in the report as “very disturbing” and ordered a thorough enquiry by a district judge to fix accountability.
Commenting on the assault on prisoners inside the Tihar jail, senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan demanded arrest and prosecution of the guilty officers.
“Jungle Raj in Tihar! Shocking unprovoked brutality by Tihar jail & police officials on Tihar inmates most of whom are under trial. Heads must roll. Officers involved must be arrested & charged,” Bhushan tweeted.