The Bombay High Court has asked the Maharashtra Director General of Police to depute a senior officer not below the rank of Deputy Director General of Police to trace the 11 missing former inmates of Thane Central prison, who were witness to custodial death of a fellow inmate in 1996.
The direction was given by a division bench headed by Justice Abhay Oka yesterday on a public interest litigation alleging that witnesses in the case were not traceable and had gone missing because of which the trial had not progressed in the last few years.
“We direct the DGP of Maharashtra to appoint an officer not below the rank of Deputy DGP to trace the witnesses,” said the bench.
The high court also ordered that an inquiry should be conducted against jail officers who were in-charge at the time of incident and if it is found that they were allegedly involved in dereliction of duty then action should be initiated against them.
According to police, the 11 witnesses, who were in Thane jail, had been released after their term expired and are now not traceable.
Public Prosecutor Mankkuwar Deshmukh informed the court that the crime branch police had submitted their addresses and efforts would be made to trace them.
The case pertains to Robert Almeida, who was arrested by police for assaulting his father in their suburban Vikhroli house while he was under the influence of alcohol. He was confined to Thane Central prison on August 30, 1996.
Two days later, he was found dead with injury marks on his body. Post Mortem revealed he died of brain hemorrhage.
However, a police inquiry revealed that he was mentally unstable and had hurt himself.
However, an activist, N R Soni, wrote a letter to the high court referring to three deaths in the prison. His letter was suo motu (on its own) converted into a PIL by the High Court and is being heard now.
The letter alleged that Almeida was thrashed by police with belts and sharp objects as a result of which he died.