MUMBAI: Bombay High Court on Monday slammed the Byculla jail officials, who are remanded in judicial custody for the death of prisoner Manjula Shetye, and asked them not to mislead the court by terming Shetye's death as an accident.
The jail officials told the division bench of R M Sawant and judge Sadhana Jadhav, “Manjula Shetye fell unconscious after falling down in prison washroom and was given an immediate attention.”
The crime branch officials probing the case too kept referring the death as an accidental death.
The court was surprised by the stand taken by the police and said that an attempt was being made to shield someone. “If the postmortem report showed multiple external injuries then how could the doctor from JJ Hospital give you an initial certificate against Shetye having suffered external injuries. You (jail) and the doctor who is your person are leaving no stone unturned to shield somebody,” the court said.
Manjula Shetye (45), who was serving her life sentence at the Byculla jail, had died at the state-run JJ hospital on June 24, allegedly after being beaten by the jail authorities on June 23 in a row over two eggs and five loaves of bread. A case had been lodged against Jailer Manisha Pokharkar and guards Wasima Sheikh, Bindu Naikodi, Sheetal Shegaonkar, Surekha Gulve and Aarati Shingne in this regard after Mumbai Crime Branch was entrusted with the probe in the case.
The court asked the state to file a further status report before scheduling the matter for further hearing on July 31.
The crime branch has recorded statements of 292 prisoners in the case, of which 60 had accused the six jail officials for beating up Shetye. Some of them had claimed that she was subjected to sexual abuse along with physical torture, which caused her death.
Magisterial inquest had ruled out any injury on her private parts though her autopsy has suggested multiple injuries on her body. A forensic analysis of the CCTV footage at the jail too had shown her being dragged to her barrack.
Sheena Bora murder accused Indrani Mukherjea too had moved to Mumbai court alleging that she was beaten up by the jail officials after Shetye’s death triggered a protest in the prison.