Facing heat for alleged laxity, the chief of police unit in charge of prisoners in transit on Thursday said the incident of two undertrials’ death in a jail van could have been prevented had the accused been handcuffed or video conferencing been used for court proceedings rather than ferrying them to court in a van.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (Third Batallion) S K Tiwari told Deccan Herald that there they had no specific inputs regarding the threat perception about the accused from Tihar Jail officials – an apparent attempt to not take the responsibility for the gruesome killing of gangsters Paras and Pradeep by other undertrials on Tuesday.
“No information of any kind was ever received from the jail authorities regarding any threats they perceived or faced by the inmates,” said Tiwari. “Tihar authorities should conduct an inquiry about why such critical information was not communicated to us,’’ Tiwari added. He said it was not the first time that the members of the two rival gangs were travelling in the same van.
“Earlier also they had travelled together in a van, and on Tuesday also they went to the Rohini court in the same van together without any incident,” Tiwari said.
Jail officials blamed police for transporting rival gang members in the same van and the poor response of the accompanying policemen in seeking reinforcements when the fight started.
The attack was allegedly led by jailed gangster Neeraj Bawana, who was one of the inmates present in the vehicle returning from Rohini District Courts, accompanied by his cousins Naveen Bhanja, Naveen Bali and Rahul.
The death of the two prisoners was allegedly a result of the rivalry between two gangs – Bawana and Dabodia. The deceased were members of Dabodia gang, and were allegedly killed by Neeraj Bawana and his accomplices because of rivalry.
“As Neeraj Bawana and the two deceased have travelled together on two earlier dates, August 10 and 11, the Third Battalion had no inkling about any rivalry between them,” Tiwari added.
The nine inmates in the van were reportedly without handcuffs when they were being taken in the van and the alleged killers strangled their targets after brutally kicking and punching them on their heads.
“I agree with the fact that had they been handcuffed, they perhaps wouldn’t have been able to kill the duo, but the Supreme Court orders are there that we can’t handcuff an undertrial without judicial orders,” said Tiwari.
“The decision-making authority is not the man on spot. We follow established protocols. We have to fulfil certain criteria to get judicial permission to handcuff an undertrial; it’s difficult to get it,” Tiwari added.
The cameras installed in the van were not working at the time of the incident, Tiwari admitted. This is a very serious error, and an inquiry has been ordered to find out about this and also about the whole incident, he said.
“We have ordered an internal inquiry; it will take at least a week’s time for its report to be out,” said Tiwari. Tiwari hoped that this incident will make the whole law and order machinery rethink about some of the existing methods of taking criminals to courts from jail.
“An honest introspection will help in coming up with better ways to deal with such situations. Rather than physical transportation, we can have video conferencing facilities on the jail premise,” said Tiwari.