Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Monday came down heavily on the Byculla jail authorities for their attempt to show convict Manjula Shetye’s death as ‘accidental.’ The HC went to the extent of saying that jail officials were trying to “shield someone” in the case.
Manjula Shetye was allegedly beaten to death by prison staff after she protested against the poor quality of food served. Six jail staffers, including the jailor, have been arrested and are now behind bars.
On Monday, a Division Bench of Justice Rajendra Savant and Justice Sadhana Jadhav observed that the authorities seem to have left no stone untouched to show Shetye’s death as purely accidental. The judges were hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by activist Pradeep Bhalekar alleging that Shetye’s death was due to the assault on her.
The judges were irked with the affidavit filed by the jail authorities, where there was a contradiction between the Death Intimation Card (DIC) and the autopsy reports. The DIC was prepared by Dr Vishesh Rothe of the state-run JJ Hospital.
The DIC said that there were “no external injuries” on Shetye’s body. However, the autopsy reports listed nearly 16 injuries on her body.
After perusing the affidavits, Justice Jadhav said, “All these reports and certificates are prepared by your people. It seems you are still not aware about the seriousness of this issue. Your DIC and autopsy aren’t matching. Do you want to say that doctors assaulted Shetye and so she sustained those injuries?”
The judges also noted that the Crime Branch filed an offence only after the autopsy reports were prepared and handed over to them. They slammed the authorities for submitting that Shetye had collapsed in the toilet and was unconscious before death. Justice Jadhav said, “How can you treat this as accidental death? We have no words to express your carelessness.”
On not recording the statement of Dr Rothe, who prepared the DIC, Justice Jadhav said, “…Sorry to say but yes, people are losing faith in you… it means you are shielding someone.”