New Delhi: In a huge security lapse, Ram Singh, one of the men accused in the gang-rape of a medical student in a moving bus in Delhi last December, has allegedly committed suicide at Tihar Jail, where he was lodged. His body was found in Jail Number 3 at around 5 this morning. (Read: 10 developments in the case)
News agency AFP quoted prison's law officer Sunil Gupta as saying, "He tied all his clothes together and used the ceiling grille and a wooden stool to hang himself."
A magisterial inquiry has been ordered into how Ram Singh managed to kill himself despite being under a "suicide watch" that meant additional security round the clock. There are conflicting reports on whether he was lodged in an isolation cell or one with other inmates in it. Press Trust of India quoted a senior jail official as saying, "Singh was not alone in the cell. Other inmates were present and a guard was also posted. But nobody came to know about it. At around 5 am, he was found hanging."
Ram Singh's lawyer, AP Singh, told the Associated Press, "What do you mean killed himself? He has been killed in prison." His family too has said that they believe Ram Singh was killed. (Read: accused were on suicide watch since January, officials claimed)
The Crime Branch and a forensic team are at Tihar investigating his death. Other convicts are being questioned inside the prison. The Home Ministry has sought a report.
Ram Singh, 35, was the driver of the bus in which six men inflicted a horrific assault on 23-year-old student Amanat (Not her real name) on December 16 last year. His brother Mukesh and three other men are also being tried by a fast-track court and are lodged at Tihar. The sixth accused is a minor and is being tried separately by the Juvenile Justice Board.
The court had rejected a petition filed by the accused to shift their trial out of Delhi, but the five men had been given extra security after their lawyers pleaded that they were at risk from other prisoners in Tihar. They were escorted to the Saket court across town for hearings by about 20 to 30 gun-wielding policemen. The lawyers of the accused had argued that other inmates were aware of reports of the savagery of the way in which the student was attacked, and regularly threatened and tried to assault the suspects.
Officials said Ram Singh, prone to violent behaviour and mood swings, had not seemed inordinately quiet or in any way different than usual in the past few days. During court hearings, he would interact with the other accused as he always did, they said. (Read: Ram Singh was prone to mood swings, violent outbursts, say officials)
It is not clear yet whether and how his suicide will impact the trial of the five other suspects.
The 20-year-old brother of Amanat told Reuters, "He (Ram Singh) knew he was going to die anyway because we had and still have such a strong case against him...I'm not very thrilled with the news that he killed himself because I wanted him to be hanged... publicly. Him dying on his own terms seems unfair."
All five men faced multiple charges, including murder, for gang-raping the young woman in the bus and then throwing her out on the road with mortal wounds. She fought a valiant battle for her life in hospital for 13 days, but her injuries were too severe and she died in a Singapore hospital on December 29. All the accused were arrested within days of the incident.
The gang-rape sparked outrage in the country and people took to the streets to demand the most stringent punishment for the accused. It also led the government to draft new and more stringent anti-rape laws.