Prima facie attempt to safeguard prison officials: Kerala HC on Custodial Torture Report

The court was disappointed with the enquiry report submitted by DIG, Prisons and has asked the DGP conduct enquiry into certain aspects

Kerala HC

After going through the report submitted by the DIG of Central prison, Poojappura, in the case of alleged custodial torture of a life convict, the Kerala High Court said it seemed like an attempt to safeguard prison officials. The Division bench of Justices K Vinod Chandran and MR Anitha had ordered  a report after one of the life convicts housed there, Tittu Jerome, sustained severe injuries and was shifted to a government hospital on the court’s direction. This incident was brought to the court’s attention by Jerome’s parents who filed a habeas corpus petition and alleged that Jerome was brutally beaten up, in a case of custodial torture.

“We are unhappy at the manner in which enquiry report has been submitted by the DIG,” observed the court. In the enquiry report submitted by the DIG prisons, who was authorized by the DGP to carry out the probe, indicates that the complaints raised by the convicts is a retaliatory measure to the enquiry ordered by prison officials against smuggling of liquor into the prison premises. Further the report of the medical officer does not indicate the convicts were subjected to any torture or having suffered injury. The medical officer’s report stated that the convicts complained of abdominal pain and generalized back pain and body pain and that there was no visible injury; which was contrary to the report filed by the consulting physician.

The court also pointed out that the DIG informed the press that the complaints raised by the convicts is a retaliatory measure to the enquiry ordered by prison officials. The court was anguished that such details were released to the press before being submitted to the court. the court also observed that DIG’s report, the court found a “prima facie attempt to safeguard the prison personnel who are involved in the alleged incident of torture inflicted on the inmates of the central prison”. The court thus directed the DGP to conduct an enquiry on these aspects and file a report within 2 weeks.

The court was informed by the government pleader that disciplinary action was initiated against the erring prison officials and they were transferred from the central prison. The court further directed the Commissioner of Police to immediately produce Jerome before Jurisdictional Magistrate, who shall then record oral statement and take further steps as deemed fit under CrPC.

The court directed that the convict not be discharged from the hospital without informing the court and will further hear the case today, January 13, for a report on compliance.

The court, on January 8, had directed the District judge and District Medical officer to make the visit urgently and report on it, on the very same day (January 8). Accordingly, the District Judge reported that Tittu told him that he was beaten on the back of his chest and that he showed one cane mark on his left foot and three cane marks on the right foot, reported LiveLaw. Further, renal injury was observed and he was shifted to Medical College Hospital, Thiruvananthapuram.

The division bench of Justices K Vinod Chandran and MR Anitha made an urgent intervention after the habeas corpus petition was filed by parents of Tittu Jerome, convicted for life in the Kevin murder case. Kevin Joseph, a Dalit Christian, was murdered in 2018, in a case of “honour killing”, for being in a relationship with a girl from a different caste. Jerome was found to be in the gang involved in killing Kevin and was sentenced to life for abduction, murder and criminal conspiracy.

The order may be read here.



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