Doctors blame jail official for lawyer’s custodial death

June 20th, 2008 - 10:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Allahabad, June 20 (IANS) In a fresh twist to the May 13 custodial death of Allahabad High Court lawyer S.K. Awasthi, government doctors on jail duty have alleged that the lawyer died due to the negligence of the Naini Jail senior superintendent. In a letter to the chief medical officer, the doctors have alleged that jail superintendent S.K. Sharma refused to send the lawyer to the hospital despite a written recommendation by the doctors about his deteriorating condition May 7. IANS has a copy of the letter written on Thursday.

Awasthi died May 13 at the S.R.N. Hospital here while he was in police custody. His parents alleged that he was tortured while in jail and chained to the bed in the hospital.

Even the post-mortem examination report stated that the lawyer died due to “head injury septicemia”, which meant he had sustained injuries during his stay in jail. There were seven injury marks on his body, the report revealed.

Awasthi was admitted to the hospital May 6 for acute psychosis but gradually also developed renal malfunctioning and later failure.

He was sentenced on April 22 to a month’s imprisonment in a contempt of court case on charges of levelling allegations of prejudice and favouritism on the judge in the high court.

The courts in Uttar Pradesh observed a strike on Awasthi’s death and lawyers in Allahabad launched an agitation demanding arrest of jail staff as well as transfer of Justice B.S. Chauhan, who had ordered Awasthi’s imprisonment.

In their letter to Chief Medical Officer Rajni Kant Gupta Thursday, the doctors - S.S.P. Verma, Vivek Srivastava and Ramgopal Verma - alleged that despite medical advice to admit Awasthi in hospital immediately, the jail authorities did not send him to the hospital.

This resulted in Awasthi’s death, the letter alleged.

Verma, in another letter to the Inspector-General of Prisons, alleged that the senior superintendent of Naini Jail, S.K. Sharma, was not mentally fit for several months.

“I have noticed his fluctuating moods, abnormal behaviour and occasionally incoherent speech,” Verma stated. He recommended medical examination of the senior jail superintendent.

However, Sharma termed it a conspiracy against him and said the doctors were making allegations against him to cover up “their own misdeeds, which came to light during the investigation in Awasthi’s death”.

The doctors alleged that there was always a dearth of medicine and medical equipments in the jail and repeated reminders to the superintendent about this failed to yield any results.

They alleged this was the reason for increasing mortality among the jail inmates.

The doctors requested the chief medical officer to transfer them elsewhere as they were unable to work in the jail.

Meanwhile, district magistrate Rajeev Agrawal is learnt to have scolded the doctors for their allegations against a senior officer without verifying the facts and said that he would send a detailed report to the government in this regard.

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