Byculla prison death: Inmate identifies six jail staffers who ‘assaulted’ Manjula Shetye

Mumbai, Dec 13 (NIE): The first eyewitness in the alleged custodial death of Byculla prison inmate, Manjula Shetye, deposed in the sessions court on Wednesday and identified the six jail staffers, stating that they assaulted Shetye on June 23, 2017. The 27-year-old witness was an inmate at the Byculla women’s prison at the time of the incident.

She identified the six staffers, including jailor Manisha Pokharkar and prison guards Vasima Shaikh, Bindu Naikode, Surekha Kakad, Shital Shengaonkar and Arti Shingane, who were present in the courtroom.

“Manjula died because they assaulted her,” the witness told the court. According to the Mumbai police, Shetye was assaulted by the staffers on the morning of June 23, 2017. She fell unconscious later in the day and subsequently succumbed. The six staffers, currently lodged in Thane jail, were booked for murder, criminal conspiracy and destruction of evidence.

The witness added that Shetye was pulled by the hair and brought to the barracks. She was pushed onto the floor by Shingane and was joined by the other accused who began assaulting Shetye through kicks and blows. All this while, Shetye kept screaming for help.

The witness further said jailor Pokharkar told the other inmates in the barracks to not help Shetye before she left the premises with the other staffers, adding that Shetye was in a lot of pain due to the assault and could not even walk properly.

The witness told the court that around 6pm, Pokharkar and the other staffers returned to the barracks to count the inmates and left without asking about Shetye’s health.

“Manjula did not eat anything all day and complained about being in a lot of pain. She fell unconscious and her jaw was locked. The inmates began screaming for the staff, following which two of them came and called the doctor. Manjula was taken to the medical office in the jail. The next day we came to know that Manjula was taken to JJ Hospital and had died on the same night. The inmates got agitated when they came to know of her death and sought for a case of murder to be registered against the six staffers who assaulted Manjula,” added the witness.

She then went on to identify the six accused. The lawyers representing the staffers began the cross-examination of the witness that will continue next month. The trial began last month with one witness – an architect who drew the prison map for the investigation – having deposed so far.