Mumbai: Did favours to prisoners lead to Byculla Jail inmate Manjula Shetye's murder?

Weeks before Manjula Shetye was murdered by the Byculla prison staff, including jailor Manisha Pokharkar, the latter had warned to teach her a lesson for misusing her influence as warden

Manjula Govind Shetye
Manjula Shetye was killed in Byculla jail on June 23

Weeks before June 23, Byculla women's prison officer Manisha Pokharkar ended her altercation with inmate Manjula Shetye with an ominous warning: "One day, I will teach you a lesson". The 'lesson' was to address Shetye's growing influence, which she was allegedly misusing to grant favours to other inmates, Crime Branch officials have revealed. On June 23, when Shetye came to her office after inmates complained about shortage of food, the officer finally saw her chance.

The previous altercation was triggered after Pokharkar warned Shetye to stop misusing her growing influence among inmates to grant them undue favours. Shetye, who had been sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering her sister-in-law had been shifted to Byculla prison this year and made warden there, following her stint at the Yerawada central prison in Pune.

Also read: Byculla jail inmate murder: Guard Bindu Naikodi, 5 others arrested

The accused were produced in court on Sunday. Pic/Bipin Kokate
The accused were produced in court on Sunday. Pic/Bipin Kokate

Gaining followers
The 40-year-old started gaining followers in jail primarily because of her yoga and fitness lessons for the other inmates. "Manjula never fell ill in the entire term of her sentence, she never even complained of a headache," said a senior crime branch officer attributing it to Shetye's medical records. Her skills had earned her many followers.

Also read - Byculla Jail inmate murder: No injuries to private parts, claims inquest panchnama

Soon, Manjula started using this newfound fame for her personal benefits. "She used to get massages from inmates, who'd also oil her hair. Whoever gave her such services would get kickbacks," said another senior officer.

Manjula would also serve a larger quantity of food to her favourite inmates
Manjula would also serve a larger quantity of food to her favourite inmates

Favours for the few
Among the kickbacks was Shetye granting more time to inmates to meet their relatives. The usual time given to meet relatives is 15 to 20 minutes, but Manjula would grant 30 to 40 minutes to those inmates who were her followers. Extra food was another perk they earned for their loyalty. "The kickbacks included more food on a daily basis and on special occasions. On Friday, when bread and eggs were being distributed among inmates, Manjula gave extra to her followers. This led to a shortage, after which some inmates complained to Pokharkar," said an officer.

Also read - South Mumbai jail inmate murder: Is state shielding alleged killers?

However, even before June 23, Pokharkar had gotten wind of Shetye's actions. "These things had reached the ears of Manisha Pokharkar. During daily rounds, Pokharkar had warned Manjula to stop these practices," said another officer, adding, "This warning had triggered an altercation between two, end of which Pokharkar had warned Manjula 'Me tula ek divas dhada shikven' (One day I will teach you a lesson)."

Then, on June 23, Shetye had been called to Pokharkar's office after the inmates' complaints emerged. What followed was a series of brutal beatings by the officer and five others – Waseema Sheikh, Sheetal Shegaonkar, Surekha Gudve, Arti Shingne – which ultimately led to Shetye's death.

Also read - Indrani Mukerjea: They said they'll do to me what they did to Manjula

Manjula would also serve a larger quantity of food to her favourite inmates
Manjula would also serve a larger quantity of food to her favourite inmates

Accused in court
The jail officials were arrested on July 1 for the murder. They were produced in the holiday court on Sunday. The court remanded the accused in police custody for five days. Cops also told court they need to recover the lathis, which were allegedly used for beating Shetye. Naikode, who was the first to be arrested by the crime branch, has confessed to attacking Shetye. "She also revealed it was Manisha who told them to beat her," said an officer.

To return her favours, the other inmates would give her massages. Whoever provided her with these services would also get kickbacks. Illustration/Uday Mohite
To return her favours, the other inmates would give her massages. Whoever provided her with these services would also get kickbacks. Illustration/Uday Mohite

Rioting case transferred
After transferring the case of Shetye's murder to crime branch three, the top brass have also decided to transfer the case regarding the rioting that followed her death to them as well. Close to 300 inmates had created a ruckus in Byculla jail on the morning of June 24, after they came to know about Shetye's death. They had burned clothes and books and thrown plates, glasses, water bottles on jail staff and policemen who were sent to control them. They also vandalized jail property, including CCTVs in the jail premises.

Also read - Mumbai: Slain Byculla Jail inmate was repeatedly denied prison transfer

A separate FIR was filed in Nagpada police station, in which inmate Indrani Mukerjea, accused of murdering her daughter Sheena Bora, has been named as a prime accused.

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