Byculla Jail Riot: Did DIG Swati Sathe support illegal acts in prison?

Jul 10, 2017, 16:41 IST | Faisal Tandel

Trouble seems to be determinedly dogging Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of the state prisons department Swati Sathe. After sparking controversy recently for showing support to the six Byculla women's jail officers arrested for the alleged custodial murder of a prisoner on a WhatsApp group, an activist has revealed an alleged new chink in her armour. A social activist from Kalyan, in a letter to the state human rights commission, has alleged that the senior prison officer has a history of supporting illegal activities across jails in Mumbai, Thane and Kalyan.

In his letter, Harrison D'Mello, who conducts social activities at Aadharwadi jail in Kalyan, has stated that the controversy surrounding Sathe in the Byculla jail officers' case isn't the first. He has alleged that she abused her position to protect Constable Deepak Sawant, attached with the Kalyan jail, who was caught at the entrance on May 19 with drugs. "A few alert officers caught Sawant trying to smuggle in 30 packets of marijuana and mephedrone. Sawant was taken to Khadakpada police station, but Sathe called up there and asked them to release him without filing any case, the letter alleged, adding, "This only motivated Sawant further, who continued his activities."

CCTV proof ignored
D'Mello claimed that he had called up and sent text messages to the jail vigilance department in Pune, informing them about the case. "Its department officers checked the CCTV footage and found Sawant guilty. But, they were stopped from taking any departmental action against him; courtesy, Sathe," he added.

D'Mello also claimed that the murder in Byculla jail is murkier than it appears on the surface, as killing someone for food can't be, and isn't, the real reason behind the act. "On June 23, a programme on human rights awareness took place on the jail premises; all superintendents were present for it. And, at midnight, the murder happened. It appears to be a planned act. A high-level inquiry should be initiated so that the big fish are caught and booked," he said.

The bucks stops where?
When mid-day spoke to Sathe, she said, "I'm not aware of it and don't even know the constable in person."

A vigilance department officer, on the other hand, confirmed the department's visit to the jail to look into the allegation but refused to elaborate due to the recent controversy jail authorities are mired in.

S Pawar, then superintendent of police at Kalyan jail and now posted at Alibaug, said, "He [Sawant] was caught, but nothing was found on him. We had even sent a report on this to our seniors. Anyway, it's too old an issue now."

Fun behind bars

Kalyan's Aadharwadi jail is infamous for anti-social activities. Sources say jammers on the premises are on only when the superintendent is there. They are switched off later to allow prisoners to use their cellphones. In June 2016, the authorities had found a mobile phone, a SIM card and three batteries on gangster Devendra Jagtap.

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