About 10 days ago, an accused in a rape case escaped from police custody while returning from a medical check-up. This is the latest of a number of such escapes by undertrials that have embarrassed the cops, raising serious questions about the security system.
Enquiries with the police within the establishment suggest that some personnel have been negligent when moving the accused to the court or between prisons. But to be fair, they do face a lack of resources to deal with this matter.
“An accused escapes because the policemen are careless in their approach,” said a police officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Ideally, there should be at least two constables to escort each accused. Also, when outside the premises he must be handcuffed. But sometimes the policemen become overconfident and the accused takes advantage and escapes.”
The officer pointed out that proper police vehicles with police drivers must be used to take the accused to the court or for a medical check-up. “But, sometimes, because a vehicle is not available, or is not in operating condition, the policemen engage taxis or even take the accused by train,” he said. And they will pay the expenses for this from their own pocket!
Dilip Rupwate, assistant commissioner of police, said, “It is the responsibility of the senior inspector and investigating officer to see that a police vehicle is provided.”
Each police station is allotted four vehicles – one of them exclusively to ferry the accused. “The senior officers should ensure that the accused is ferried by a police vehicle only and the vehicle should be made available for this purpose,” Rupwate said.
Another police officer explained that in some cases it would be necessary to provide an armed policeman to escort the accused, to ensure that he is not harmed. “But such basic steps are not followed properly and hence the accused escape from custody,” he said.
In September, Afzal Usmani, a suspected Indian Mujahideen operative and an accused in the 2008 Gujarat blasts, escaped from the sessions court premises in south Mumbai. He was re-arrested over a month later, while trying to cross over to Nepal.
In the case of the Borivli rape accused, the youth was re-arrested after his father tipped off the police that he planned to return home.
The Mumbai police are known to also spend from their own pockets to perform the last rites of bodies that are lying unclaimed. They are sometimes helped by NGOs that provide funds or materials and even vehicles for this purpose.
Some funds are available with the additional commissioners for this purpose. But it usually takes a long time to get reimbursements for the money spent. Which is why the cops choose to take the assistance of NGOs.