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The killing of Prisoner in Bikaner Jail a Black Spot on Rajasthan Home Department

Sajid’s death in Bikaner Jail Raises Many Questions

 

 

 

 

 

By Raheem Khan

Jaipur, Nov. 16
The PUCL has condemned the Government of Rajasthan, Home Department, and the State jail authorities at all levels, for having not protected the life and liberty of and not giving a safe space to 22-year-old Sajid Hussain, who was lodged in Bikaner Central Jail, U/S 308 of IPC (attempt at culpable homicide).

Sajid Hussain of Hanumangarh was killed by a 40-45-year-old Sec. 302 convicted prisoner, Budhram, who is said to be a patient of depression and who had been put into a restricted access, special ward with 17 other prisoners, which included Sajid. Budhram picked up a stone slab covering a water drain in the barrack and smashed the head of Sajid in the early hours on Wednesday.

This murder in Bikaner Jail would have sent shockwaves to all the prisons in the State, with 25,000 population of prisoners feeling extremely unsafe, for such a murder poses a serious threat to the system of safety and security put into place by the Bikaner Jail authorities and state Jail authorities. Immediate counselling would be needed for the prisoners who were in that Barrack and in the rest of the Jail.

Mental Health of Prisoners mostly neglected in Jails
This incident clearly shows the failure of proper care of mentally disturbed patients by the Bikaner Prison authorities. The death of Sajid could have been avoided if proper medication and care protocols were taken care of. The PUCL, through its jail work, knows that patients with depression or mentally disturbed ailments hardly undergo proper screening and medication. It is well-known that the Jail hospitals in the State are mostly devoid of psychiatrists, so was the case here. Our Jails have shown that patients are taken rather infrequently to the City hospital and their medication has been also irregular for the last two decades or more.

What is shocking is that in 2013 too, a mentally disturbed patient went berserk and killed three prisoners, with almost the same tool, which was a brick.

Similarly, in Jaipur jail in February 2019 a Pakistani prisoner was also stoned to death by inmates.

What have the jail authorities learnt from these incidents which are serious lapses of safety protocols.

Lack of sufficient staff due to no-appointments
This incident also brings into light the failure of the state to meet even the minimum standards of staffing in our state jails. The deficit in Bikaner at the constabulary level is 50%, it is almost one constable manning two wards, how would the protection of prisoners be if fights broke out between prisoners in the night. The total deficit in Rajasthan is 25% of the required staff, according to the NCRB data. Why are Jail budgets not raised by Governments. Successive Governments have failed the Jail department in Rajasthan.

There are a huge number of deaths due to custodial violence in Rajasthan. According to a news report, in response to a question asked by the BJP MLA Satish Poonia, more than 159 prisoners had died in Jails in Rajasthan (80 prisoners died in 2021 and 79 in 2022). However, the magisterial enquiry into the deaths of only 52 prisoners was completed till March 2023 under Section 176 CrPC. And till now nobody has been booked for custodial deaths. It is not the PUCL case that all deaths in Judicial custody are homicide or death due to negligence, however, it is very important to make public the cause of all deaths, in order to restore faith and confidence of all the 25,000 prisoners in Jails.

The PUCL demands

  • a compensation of Rs. 50 lakhs to the family of Sajid as he was killed for no crime of his doing.
  • an independent enquiry of academics and other citizens, into this murder in Bikaner Jail so that all angles, including the communal one can be examined.
  • immediate appointment of psychiatrists and clinical psychologists in all jails, including adherence to care protocols for all mentally disturbed prisoners.
  • immediate appointment of the deficit Jail Staff as a priority of the next Government.
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