The embarrassing lapse came to light when the accused in the gangrape case of a photojournalist were brought to the court for routine production. Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam informed the sessions court trying the gangrape case that accused Siraj Rehman Khan, who was lodged in Thane jail, was "untraceable".
Nikam informed this when Principal Judge Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi asked as to why Khan was not produced along with three other accused - Vijay Jadhav, Kasim Bengali and Salim Ansari. The judge had two days ago issued production warrant for Khan directing Thane jail officials to produce him today.
"Thane jail authorities have communicated that Siraj Rehman Khan is not in their jail, while Mumbai Crime Branch says he is in the possession of Thane jail," Nikam told reporters.
The Judge has now summoned Thane jail Superintendent tomorrow for an explanation and adjourned the case. However, Additional Director General (prisons) Meeran Borwankar has denied that Khan was untraceable.
"He is very much in the Thane jail. I spoke to the head of the Thane prison. I don't know what caused this confusion," she told PTI.
Asserting that Khan has not escaped, U T Pawar, Superintendent of Thane prison said, "I am checking due to which administrative reason the accused was not produced before the court today."
The young photojournalist was gangraped by the five accused, including a minor, when she had gone to the deserted Shakti Mills compound in central Mumbai on August 22 with a male colleague on assignment.
The accused had tied up the victim's male companion with belts and then raped her. While four accused were sent to jail in judicial custody, the minor is lodged in a reformatory.
In a major security lapse last Saturday, Afzal Usmani, an Indian Mujahideen operative accused in the 2008 Ahmedabad bombings, had escaped from a special MCOCA court here when he was brought for framing of charges.
The IM operative, who was brought to the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) court along with 18 others from Taloja Central Jail in Navi Mumbai, is still to be tracked down.
Navi Mumbai police has suspended two policemen who escorted the suspects.