New Delhi: The main accused in the Delhi gangrape-murder case, Ram Singh, was found hanging in his Tihar Jail cell under mysterious circumstances on Monday morning, raising questions over monitoring of undertrials in the prison. While the preliminary report suggested it was a case of suicide, Ram Singh's family and lawyer said there was no reason for the gangrape accused to kill himself and alleged that he was murdered inside the jail.
The death of 33-year-old accused has raised questions over the security of prisoners in Tihar Jail as Ram Singh was already under a 'suicide watch' and there were two more inmates in the cell in which he was found hanging at around 5:45 am. A guard was also posted outside his cell to keep an eye on him.
The jail authorities in their report to the government have failed to explain how Ram Singh managed to tie the rope, he made using his clothes and the mat, to the grill of his cell which was at least eight feet high while he was only about 5.6 feet tall. They also could not explain how Ram Singh's inmates failed to detect anything untoward. The authorities said the inmates were asleep when the incident took place and the guard noticed that Ram Singh was hanging from the grill at 5.45 am.
Ram Singh and other four accused in the December 16 gangrape-murder case have been under suicide watch since January, after they stopped interacting with other inmates in the prison.
While Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde confirmed that the initial report suggested that Ram Singh committed suicide, he added nothing concrete could be said till the investigation was complete. He added that a Metropolitan Magistrate would probe the incident. "There is a major security lapse...Preliminary inquiry suggests he committed suicide. However, we will wait for the enquiry to be completed," he said.
Reacting to the development, the brother of the Delhi braveheart said he wasn't shocked by the incident and won't blame the Tihar Jail authorities. "Ram Singh has given himself a punishment. I do not blame the Tihar Jail authorities," he said. "I think the case has been on the right track. I wanted that the accused should have been punished, may be hanged in public," he added.
National Women's Commission Chairperson Mamata Sharma, however, raised questions about the functioning of Tihar Jail, saying it was "shocking" that the administration could not protect the undertrial and demanded an inquiry. "The question mark is on Tihar," she said.
Former Tihar director general Kiran Bedi noted that the case was widely reported and the accused was facing social boycott within and outside jail. "Here is a person who is in a small cell and would probably be living as long as the watch remains. So the moment he can give a slip to that watch, he had the chance to escape the gallows," she said.
Ram Singh's lawyer and family, however, refused to believe that the accused had committed suicide. "There is some foulplay. He cannot commit suicide. He is not such a person that he can commit suicide. He was very happy with the way the trial was going on," lawyer VK Anand, who represents Ram Singh and his brother Mukesh, alleged. "Now I want that my clients should be released on bail as Tihar is no more safe place for them also. They will also be killed," he added.
"My son could have never committed suicide. This is definitely a murder," his father said. "He could not move his hand as it was fractured," he claimed. He demanded a CBI probe into the incident and said the post-mortem of the body should be held in his presence. "His enemies killed him. He was a son of a poor man. He had already confessed to everything. So there was no need for him to take such a step," added Ram Singh's mother.
Ram Singh's alleged suicide is the third such incident in the last 15 months which has taken place in Delhi's Tihar jail, which houses over 12,000 prisoners.
Meanwhile, Delhi Police sources said that the incidnet won't affect their inquiry as they have already collected required evidence in the case and interrogation of Ram Singh was over.
The 23-year-old paramedical student was gangraped inside a moving bus, which was driven by Ram Singh, on December 16, 2012 and succumbed to her injuries on December 29, 2012. The case was followed by outrage and protests throughout the country, following which a fast-track trial was ordered into the case.
The suicide of the main accused comes amidst the trial in the fast-track court. Ram Singh, along with the other four accused, was charged with murder, gangrape, destruction of evidence, criminal conspiracy, dacoity, unnatural sex and common intent in the case. The sixth accused is a juvenile and is in an observation home.
The probe into Ram Singh's death is expected to focus on some key questions, which include:
1. What kind of kind of carpet was used inside Ram Singh's cell, and if it was possible to tear off a portion from the carpet to be used as a rope?
2. Reports suggest he tied the carpet portion to the grill. Were the iron rods smooth or rough?
3. It is tough to ensure a strong enough grip on a smooth surface and the knot needed to be strong enough carry his weight. How did Ram Singh manage it?
4. How did he manage to tie a knot on his own at a height enough to aid a drop?
5. What support did he use to climb up to ensure a sharp drop causing his death?
6. How did two other inmates inside his cell remain unaware through this entire process?
It also raises several questions on why the jail authorities failed to carry out the suicide watch and ensure commensurate arrangements to prevent any such possibility. Off-record conversation with jail officials throw up more questions on operational specifics, like:
1. Was a sentry supposed to be posted outside the cell where Ram Singh was lodged?
2. If yes, how could this happen in the presence of a sentry. If no sentry was posted, why not?
3. Why wasn't the CCTV sweep aimed to provide visual reference of inside the cell?
4. Despite being aware of the very sensitive nature of the case, why were no special precautions in place?