SRINAGAR CENTRAL JAIL VISIT & REPORT BY J&K HCBA SRINAGAR
Pursuant to the orders of the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Srinagar, dated 11.04.2019, passed on an application filed by the J&K High Court Bar Association, Srinagar, for permitting some of the Executive Committee members to meet the detenues and undertrial prisoners lodged at Central Jail, Srinagar, a team of the following members, visited the Central Jail, Srinagar, on 11.04.2019 itself,
1. Mr. Aijaz Bedar, Vice President, J&K High Court Bar Association, Srinagar;
2. Mr. Mohammad Ashraf Bhat, General Secretary, J&K High Court Bar Association, Srinagar;
3. Mr. Adil Asimi, Joint Secretary, J&K High Court Bar Association, Srinagar;
4. Mr. Rafiq Ahmad Joo, Executive Member, J&K High Court Bar Association, Srinagar; and
5. Mr. Arshad Andrabi, Executive Member, J&K High Court Bar Association, Srinagar;
After meeting the Superintendent Central Jail, Srinagar, Sh. Mukesh Kumar, Additional S.P. an officer from J&K Police (Gazetted) Service, who has been posted as Superintendent, Central Jail Srinagar, in the month of February, 2018, after the suspension of Hilal Ahmad Rather, for the charges of escape of a prisoner from SMHS Hospital, Srinagar, the Superintendent narrated the sequence of events, which had led to the happening of 1st of April, 2019, as under: –
“………He wanted to make improvements in the Prison management and intended to dismantle the small cabins constructed some 30 to 40 years back inside the barracks, which was resisted by the inmates.
The unfortunate incident took place on 01.04.2019, when the inmates had taken dinner and had been locked up in the barracks. At about 9:30 p.m. the inmates became violent and resorted to sloganeering and violence. Various barracks inside the Central Jail were damaged by the bursting of gas cylinders. The jail management called in police reinforcement and also CRPF, who exercised maximum restraint in tackling the situation. A case of fire has been lodged against the inmates. Next day Deputy Commissioner, Srinagar, visited the Jail and tried to pacify the inmates and assured them of a fair enquiry into the incident…..”
The Bar members found that after the incident, there has been a communication breakdown between the inmates and the jail administration. For the last ten days, the inmates are not meeting any of the visitors or relatives. The inmates are also not being provided any newspaper or access to any media like TV or Radio. They had also refused to come out and meet some lawyers.
The Jail Superintendent showed his sympathy for the inmates and initially expressed his inability to arrange a meeting between the Bar members and the inmates. It was however with great difficulty and a long wait that the Bar members finally succeeded in their efforts to interact with the inmates, in a barrack constructed for the conduct of interviews of the inmates with their family members. This is a long corridor partitioned by thick wiremesh, where during the course of interview, the inmates have to remain standing all the time and the interviewer has to sit on a wooden tool.
The inmates, who were 15 in number, met the Bar team, were tense, terrified and somewhat subdued. They gave the version of events of 1st to 4th/5th of April, 2019, as under: – “On Thursday, 1st April 2019, the representatives of the inmates were called by the Superintendent jail at around 12 in the noon. He asked them to evacuate barrack number 1-A and 1- B, as some repairs and construction work in bathrooms had to be undertaken by fitting the tiles and some painting work had also to be done in the barracks. The inmates suggested that let, first barrack 1-A be vacated and after completion of the work in the said barrack, the other barrack may be taken up but the Jail Superintendent did not agree to this suggestion. He ordered that both the barracks should be cleared within three days. He ordered them to pack their belongings and put them in the small cabins and lock them up. The inmates had no choice but to obey his order and accordingly they vacated the barracks and packed their belongings and put them in the cabins and kept the keys of the lock of their cabins with them. On third day, the inmates heard a lot of hue and cry from barrack number 3 and 4 which is adjacent to barrack number 1-A and found that the jail authorities are forcefully dismantling the small cabins where the inmates had kept their belongings without allowing them to take their belongings and the books removed from those cabins. Since most of the inmates spend their time by reading Holy Qur’an and other religious books and literature, which has also been encouraged by the authorities over the period of time but this time the inmates got broken, as the authorities were using mechanical drills to dismantle the walls of the cabins and desecrating the Holy Qur’an in a most disrespectful manner, which they could not tolerate. They sought some time to remove their belongings and to shift Holy Qur’an and other Islamic books, to some other place in a respectable manner, but their requests were not heeded to by the jail authorities. According to them, they had never objected to dismantling of the cabins or cells as they had nothing to do with that matter. But the authorities never heard them and went on with their demolition drive using machinery, men and equipment. This provoked sloganeering and the jail authorities brought in local police headed by Station House Officer of Police Station Rainawari, M Rashid Khan and also a heavy contingent of CRPF, who after coming inside the jail, thrashed the inmates in their barracks with batons and all the members of force hurled abuses on them. They used tear-gas shells and pellet guns on the inmates, inside the barracks, which caused serious injuries to two of the inmates. 17-year-old boy, Abid Kachru, received a pellet injury in his eyes and had to be operated upon on 11th April 2019 in the hospital.
Another inmate Mukhtar Ahmad was seriously injured due to beating and has been recommended for ‘Shoulder Shaft Replacement’ by the doctors. Around this time, the inmates saw some barracks were in flames, and occasionally sound of blasts was also heard by them. They attributed the blaze to teargas shells as according to them, as in one of the barracks, there was tailoring material which caused the fire. After the incident, the Superintendent came to them, and asked them to go inside their barracks which they immediately did. They have narrated the whole incident to Deputy Commissioner Srinagar, on the next day, who assured them of an impartial enquiry into the incident. On another occasion SDM, Sandeep accompanied by Tehsildar, Muneer Kakru and Tehsildar Rabia as well as CMO Talat on visiting the jail and meeting the inmates, assured them of the redressal of their genuine grievances but so far nothing has been done. On 10thApril, 2019, District and Sessions Judge, Srinagar also visited the jail in pursuance of the orders of the High Court and had a detailed interaction with the inmates inside the barracks and saw what had happened there himself but he too has not thereafter done anything. They stated that they have not allowed anybody to remove any of the articles from the spot particularly the copies of Holy Quran which had been desecrated by the jail authorities, police and CRPF. Everything is still lying on spot, which can be seen by anyone, who is interested to know the truth…..” After having the aforesaid interaction with the inmates, the Bar team found that the inmates feel that a conspiracy has been hatched against them and the State has adopted a hostile attitude towards them for their political ideology and thought. They feel that they will not be allowed any opportunity of proving their innocence before any enquiry officer which may be ordered in the matter or in the court of law. They feel that they may be shifted to some jail outside the State so as to prolong their trial and detention in jail. They have demanded that the whole incident should be got enquired into by the High Court and the enquiry should be supervised by a sitting judge of the court. They also demanded that the FIR registered against them by the jail authorities being an attempt to victimize them should not be allowed to be investigated until the enquiry is got completed by the High Court. They also want that they should be allowed to file a counter FIR and the members of International Red-Cross ICRC, SHRC, IHRC, Amnesty International and Asia Watch, be allowed to visit the jail at the earliest, so that the evidence which is available on spot is not destroyed or damaged by the jail authorities. They stated that if their demands are not met some of them are ready to commit suicide inside the jail, the responsibility of which shall be solely on the jail authorities.
The team members on its part, have decided to submit their report before the Court of CJM, Srinagar, tomorrow, as directed by the Ld. CJM, Srinagar, in terms of his order dated 11.04.2019 for an appropriate action which may be warranted by law. They have also decided to release the report to the press for the information of general public.
J&K High Court,
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