Jail-Superintendent spared, low-rank police-officials made scapegoats: HC

Srinagar—The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has criticised state’s government for adopting “different yardsticks” against top and low rank jail officials in connection with death of Pakistani prisoner due to an attack by a fellow inmate at a high-security Kot Bhalwal jail in May 2013.

Disposing of a petition filed by one of the officials who was reverted to the lower rank for a period of five years for “criminal negligence and dereliction of duty”, a bench of Justice Tashi Rabstan said that had Rajni Sehgal, the then Superintendent Central Jail, not gone on unauthorized leave on the fateful day, the “incident-in-question might have been avoided.”

Sonaullah Ranjay, who was in jail from 17-years, was on 03 May 2013 attacked by one lifer convict, Vinod Kumar within the premises of Central Jail, Kot Bhalwal. Sonaullah later succumbed to injuries at PGI, Chandigarh on 9 May 2013.

 “The record, so produced (before court), reveals that the (government) has adopted two different yard sticks – one in respect of petitioner and other in respect of the then Jail Superintendent Smt. Rajni Sehgal, who was also one of the co-accused in the incident.”

In the inquiry itself, the court observed, Sehgal was found guilty of the charge of unauthorized leave on 2 May 2013 without taking prior permission either from the DGP, Prisons or DIG, Prisons.

“Even the inquiry report in respect of Sehgal was accepted by the competent authority. However, despite (it), the inquiry (her) respect came to be closed vide Order No.Home-358 of 2014 dated 22.07.2014 by taking a lenient view without giving any reasoning not to talk of substantial reasoning,” the court said.

Not only was she reinstated, the court said, her suspension period was also treated as the period spent on duty.

“Had Smt. Rajni Sehgal, the then Superintendent Central Jail not on unauthorized leave on the said day, the incident-in-question might have been avoided. But, by taking a lenient view, the inquiry in her case has been closed, whereas, on the other hand, by adopting another yardstick, the petitioner being low rank police official and also who were not directly related to the incident-in-question, have been made scapegoat thereby imposing major penalty on them,” the court said.

The high court made the observations while disposing of the petition filed by an official who was Head Warder but was reverted to the lower rank of Selection Grade (S.G.) Warder for a period of five years for criminal negligence and dereliction of the duty. The government had insisted that the its action followed as the petitioner did not respond to the show cause notice issued to him on dated 15 October 2013. 

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