- Apprentice Lawyer
The Kerala High Court today observed that police officers cannot inflict injuries on prisoners during disciplinary proceedings (Jerome Kochukutty v. State of Kerala).
The observation was made during the hearing of the habeas corpus petition moved by the parents of Tittu Jerome, a convict in an honour killing case, alleging that he was tortured by prison officials.
After the Court's intervention on Friday, a team led by the Additional District Judge – II at Thiruvananthapuram was directed to visit the jail along with the Inspector General of Police and medical officers, to ascertain the status of the prisoner.
After a medical examination revealed wounds and signs indicative of renal injury, Jerome was shifted to the Medical College Hospital, Thiruvananthapuram on Friday.
A Bench of Justices K Vinod Chandran and MR Anitha took the petition up this morning, for receipt of a statement filed by the Director General of Police (Prisons).
The Court also allowed Jerome's parents to visit him in hospital today for thirty minutes.
During the hearing in the morning, the Court had some strong words for the prison officials and recorded its dissatisfaction with the reports that had been filed.
The Court pointed out that the report did not specify any details about the injuries sustained by Jerome from prison officials, the circumstances leading up to the violence inflicted, and whether it was proper for the jail authorities to take law into their hands and inflict violence on prisoners for wrongdoing.
There were additional allegations in the writ petition averring that Jerome was being kept in an isolated cell and was not allowed to meet his parents.
Responding to these allegations, the prosecution submitted that these forms of disciplinary action were often taken against convicts.
Lashing out against the prosecution and the prison officials, the Court replied that such forms of disciplinary action did not allow for a right to inflict violence.
Asking the prosecution why the officials who inflicted the violence were transferred when they ought to have been suspended from official work, the Court proceeded to direct the matter to be taken up again in the afternoon.
The second hearing
After the Court was informed that the City Police Commissioner had prevented Jerome's parents from visiting him in hospital, the judges ordered the setting up of a video conferencing link with the Commissioner, demanding a response as to why the parents were not being allowed into the hospital.
During the interaction over video, the Bench admonished the Commissioner for preventing the petitioners from visiting their son, who were acting in pursuance of a direction of the High Court.
The Court then proceeded to pass an order recording its dissatisfaction with the reports filed by the Police, as also the prison's initial denial of the violence.
Ordering the filing of a fresh report within two weeks, the Bench went on to direct that the prisoner be taken to the court of the jurisdictional magistrate and his statement recorded.
The Court also emphasized that disciplinary proceedings against the prison officials involved were to continue.
A report filed by the fact-finding team constituted on Friday had stated that violence was inflicted upon Jerome following reports that certain convicts were found consuming alcohol inside the prison.
Jerome is among those convicted for the murder of a Dalit Christian in a suspected case of honour killing.
The parents, through a writ petition filed through Senior Advocate KP Satheesan instructed by Advocate SK Adhithyan, have accused prison officials of torturing their son, Tittu whilst being held in an isolated cell. They have also alleged that they were not being allowed to visit him inside the prison.
Read the Order here: