Mumbai: Prisoners released due to COVID-19 pandemic turn to crime again

Updated: Jun 18, 2020, 08:05 IST | Samiullah Khan, Diwakar Sharma | Mumbai

Police say some inmates released in lockdown committed serious offences, including murder

Tauheed Ansari, Santosh Dubey, Sandeep Yadav, Sajid Shaikh and Kailash More
Tauheed Ansari, Santosh Dubey, Sandeep Yadav, Sajid Shaikh and Kailash More

The Mumbai police this week decided to put a number of prisoners back in jails after they were temporarily released amid the COVID crisis in the last two months. Some of the inmates who were released from jail during this time have allegedly committed serious offences, including murder and attempt to murder in the city while they were out, the police have alleged.

The decision to release them from jail was taken a couple of months ago based on the directives of the Supreme Court that had told the state to form a high-powered committee consisting of three members and chaired by the chairperson of the state legal services authority (senior-most judge in the high court), home secretary and DG (Prisons).

Prof Vijay Raghvan, a criminologist, said that guidelines provided by the committee were considered by the court in deciding whether a prisoner should be released on bail or not. "A small percentage of inmates do re-offend. However, just because a person is arrested does not mean he/she is guilty," said Raghvan who has been working extensively on studying offenders at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). He said that to claim that the crime rate has gone up because inmates have been released, "will be incorrect." The recidivism (tendency to re-offend) rate in India, he said, is around eight per cent as compared to a lot of foreign nations where it is more than 50 per cent, he added.

Mumbai police officers on electric bikes watch joggers at Marine Drive. Pic/Bipin Kokate
Mumbai police officers on electric bikes watch joggers at Marine Drive. Pic/Bipin Kokate

The Maharashtra government has released over 8,000 inmates on bail from various prisons in the state in a bid to decongest the overcrowded cells and maintain social distancing norms amid the pandemic.

Many re-arrested
Kailash More, 25, who was arrested by Kandivli police on March 16 for allegedly planning a robbery, was imprisoned till June 8. He was released on June 9 after which he was re-arrested within a week for allegedly committing another crime in Malad west. Officials at Bangur Nagar police station said that More and his accomplices allegedly killed a 50-year-old.

In January, Bangur Nagar police had arrested More in housebreaking and theft (HBT) case but he was later released on bail before being arrested by Kandivli police in March, said the police. Another accused — Sajid Shaikh alias Aaga, 25 — who was released on bail on March 11, has been re-arrested by the Malwani police for attempt to murder on June 15.

Aaga was first arrested on November 6, 2018 in HBT case. The police said that Aaga had five HBT cases registered against him at Malwani police station. He is currently in police custody. Another case is that of 33-year-old Tauheed Ansari who was re-arrested for killing his 11-year-old stepson and seriously wounding his second wife on May 23 — the day he was released on bail. A resident of Ambujwadi, Ansari was arrested under the POCSO Act earlier. Another accused Santosh Dubey, 45, who was released from jail on June 9, is now wanted in a POCSO case registered against him at Dahisar police station. Dubey, along with a dozen accomplices, raided a businessman's house and looted '80 lakh in cash and jewellery worth '2 lakh. Sandeep Yadav, 25, who was released on bail on May 11, was arrested by Samta Nagar police on June 14 in an extortion and trespassing case in Kandivli East.

Mohammad Aziz Abu Salem Khan, 32, who was released on bail from Arthur Road jail last month, has been rearrested by JJ Marg police for setting ablaze a South Mumbai-based lodge for denying him admission. Khan is a history-sheeter involved in dacoity, murder and extortion in the city.
In Thane, Vartak Nagar police arrested 20-year-old Akash Sahu for chain snatching. Sahu is a history-sheeter arrested in a similar offence a month ago and released over COVID.

'Signs of unemployment'
Over this temporary release of criminals, an IPS officer told mid-day that inmates involved in petty crimes have not undergone skill training in prison. "So after getting released, these offenders will resort to the same nature of offence to earn," he said, adding, "These are the signs of unemployment and frustration."

The Mumbai police did not have the exact number of accused released on bail in this COVID period and re-arrested later. "The data is not available with us," said DCP Pranaya Ashok, Public Relations Officer (PRO), Mumbai police.

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