Two months ago, the Delhi Police allegedly intercepted calls from a Tihar Jail inmate, who was illegally using the phone of a jail employee. In one conversation the inmate, say sources, hinted that there could be an attack on the five men accused of brutally gang-raping a medical student on a bus in Delhi. One of them, Ram Singh, was found hanging in his Tihar Jail cell on Monday morning.
Sources said that in the conversation allegedly intercepted by the police, the inmate indicated that the rape accused could be attacked while on their way to the Saket fast track court for daily hearings. Tihar jail officials were reportedly briefed about this specific threat and security for the five men was increased. Lately, about 20 to 30 gun-toting policemen would escort them to the court and inside it.
The Tihar Jail authorities are yet to submit a preliminary report on Ram Singh's death, the circumstances of which have raised many questions. He was found hanging at 5 am in a cell he shared with three other prisoners. They apparently slept through his alleged suicide, which was also not detected by a guard posted to monitor the cell. An autopsy report said yesterday that he died from hanging and that there was no external injury on Ram Singh's body.
But his family insists that he was murdered and have sought a CBI inquiry.
Ram Singh and the other accused had earlier pleaded in court that they feared for their lives at Tihar, where other convicts often taunted and even assaulted them. Police sources have emphasised that this specific threat was about an attack outside the jail premises. But, they suggest, it was implicit that security all around must be tightened.
After Ram Singh's death, Tihar Jail has arranged for round-the clock CCTV surveillance of the cells that the other four men accused in the case are lodged in. Their lawyers had written to Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and Delhi's Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar requesting that they either be shifted to another jail or then be provided extra security at Tihar.
In court on Monday, the day Ram Singh died, the lawyers said their clients told the judge, "Shoot us, but don't send us back to Tihar Jail." Their request was turned down, but the judge has asked jail officials to submit a daily report on the security arrangements for the suspects.
On the night of December 16, six men brutally raped the 23-year-old medical student on a moving bus. The woman died in hospital two weeks later. Ram Singh, his brother Mukesh and four other men were arrested soon after the attack. All six suspects pleaded not guilty to rape and murder charges. One of them, who is 17, is being tried by a juvenile court.