Delhi gang rape accused death: Suicide or murder?

Ram Singh, the man who was believed to be the principal perpetrator of the December 16 gang rape in the capital, reportedly committed suicide in Delhi’s high security Tihar jail onMonday, police said. However, his family alleged he was murdered. According to jail officials Ram Singh (35), who was in ward number 5 of Jail No 3, hanged himself by the grill of a window, using a bedsheet.

Drawing a line: Policemen place a police line outside the Deen Dayal Upadhyay hospital mortuary where (inset) Ram Singh’s body was brought yesterday. Pic/AFP

But what is curious about the whole incident was that none of the three other inmates of the cell noticed it. Officials refused to identify the three inmates who shared the cell with Ram Singh, His body was seen hanging from the grill at 5.45 am by a Tamil Nadu policeman. Kept in a cell shared by three others, also undertrials, Ram Singh used a bucket to reach the grill to hang himself. Inmates are given a bedsheet, bucket and a mug to take bath. Ram Singh was also known to suffer from a deformity in his left hand.

“The matter is being inquired into by the judicial officer. The exact cause of death would be known after receipt of the inquiry officer’s report, which includes a post-mortem examination report by forensic specialist.” “An inquiry has been ordered to ascertain how Ram Singh committed suicide in the high security Tihar jail,” said G Sudhakar, DIG (Prisons), Tihar jail.

Family cries murder
But his family alleged he was murdered and demanded a CBI inquiry. “He was killed and later hanged in the jail. He told us several times that he was threatened in jail. We lodged a complaint in this regard. It was not suicide. We demand a CBI inquiry,” said Mange Lal, Ram Singh’s father.

VK Anand, his lawyer, also alleged “foul play” and demanded an inquiry into the incident. He said that Ram Singh was not in a depressed state as is being highlighted by jail officials.

Tihar sources said Ram Singh was earlier under suicide watch, but the alert was later called off after it was assessed that he was behaving normally and was not showing any signs of depression or talking about ending his life.

Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde called the death “a major security lapse” but refrained from using the word “suicide”. Delhi police made no comment.

Sources said all the five men were kept under suicide watch since January after they stopped interacting with other jail inmates and even between themselves.

Escaped justice?
The rape victim’s 20-year-old brother expressed shock over the incident. “Ram Singh should have faced the gallows. He should have been hanged publicly. Ram Singh was aware that there was strong evidence against him and that he could get the death penalty,” the victim’s brother said.  Lawyers and experts are of the view that trial would not be affected by the suicide. The others accused in the case, Pawan (19), and Akshay (29), are held in jail No 4, Vinay (20), and Mukesh, 26, are in Jail no 7. The sixth accused is a juvenile, lodged separately and is being tried by the Juvenile Justice Board. Officials ordered an inquiry into the incident. 

The case
Ram Singh was the driver of the bus in which the 23-year-old woman was raped by six men, including him and his younger brother. The six males, including a minor, also thrashed the woman’s friend and later threw them out of the moving bus in the cold December night out on the street — bleeding and without clothes. The young student died of massive internal injuries in a Singapore hospital two weeks later. Ram Singh, who had confessed to the crime, had been charged in 13 cases, and had been facing day-to-day trial in a fast-track court.

‘Shoot us, but don’t send us back to Tihar’
Meanwhile, the others appealed to the judge handling their trial to move them to a different prison. “Shoot us, but don’t send us back to Tihar jail,” they said in court, according to their lawyers. Their request was turned down, but the judge has asked jail officials to submit a daily report on the security arrangements for the suspects.

More than meets the eye?
The suicide by prime accused Ram Singh, as alleged by police, sprung the following questions:
>> Can a rug be used to commit suicide by hanging?
>> Are not rugs a bit too thick for making a noose. Else, did Ram Singh shred the rug to make a rope? 
>> This would have taken him a few days at least and it would have been difficult to hide it.
>> How could his three cell mates sleep through the entire incident, which came to light at 5.45 am?
>> Ram Singh is said to have slept at 2.30 am after talking to the three inmates he was warded with. Why did the authorities refused to identify his fellow prisoners?
>> Police sources said they got a call about the hanging at 7 am. Why was the police called so late when the incident occurred at 5.45 am?
>> According to the jail schedule, the daily prayer is around 6.30 am and breakfast is served around 7.30 am. If the morning prayer is at around 6.30 am, how come no one noticed Ram Singh was missing, as that’s the time when the inmates get up and ready for the morning chores?
>> Police sources said Ram Singh’s body was hanging till then. Why the delay?
>> Why did Tihar authorities lift the suicide watch a few weeks ago and why was he not put in a high-security jail as he was the prime accused in the gang-rape case?
>> How could the guard on duty did not detect anything amiss during the night?

Did you know?
Tihar jail is India’s biggest prison and houses over 12,000 prisoners. Its internal security is the task of the Tamil Nadu Police. The outer security is managed by other agencies. 

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