Four Superintendents have been suspended or arrested since 2006

During the days Maulana Masood Azhar, Ahmad Omar Saeed Sheikh and Mushtaq Zargar — the three high-profile prisoners, released in exchange for over 150 passengers of the Indian Airlines Airbus A300 at Kandahar on December 31, 1999 — were lodged here, Kot Bhalwal Central Jail had the ambience of a ‘guest house.’

Rooms plush with carpets and fitted with TV sets stood occupied by the prisoners charged with murder and bomb blasts even in 2006. Some had set up their own poultry and vegetable farms. Cellphones, SIM cards, LCDs, even smuggled-in comfy beds and spongy Dunlop mattresses were later seized during a crackdown.

Jail Superintendent Gurdeep Singh was among a number of the officers removed and placed under suspension on October 26, 2006.

Mr. Singh’s successor, Sheikh Abdul Rashid, did the ‘heroic’ act of inviting crews from television channels and newspapers — to show the world how his predecessors had accorded “VIP treatment to the dreaded terrorists.” It boomeranged. On November 14, 2006, he received a notice, asking him to explain how he had brought in media and spoken to the press without permission from the government in advance.

Mr. Rashid was attached to the Directorate General of Prisons on November 16. He was removed and placed under suspension vide the State Home Department’s Order No: 456 on November 27, 2006, for “misconduct and dereliction of duty.”

Mr. Rashid’s successor Mirza Saleem Beigh landed in the eye of a storm when he separated the Pakistani and the Indian prisoners and claimed to be enforcing the jail manual strictly. His management tools neutralized the ‘belligerent’ inmates, but evoked virulent reactions from the Valley.

The Srinagar-based High Court Bar Association dragged Mr. Beigh to court. It complained that he had committed “contempt of court” by disallowing its delegation’s meeting with the detained separatist activists and the under-trial militants that had been granted by J&K High Court. In 2011, he was replaced by Rajni Sehgal and posted as Superintendent of Udhampur Jail.

Mr. Beigh was arrested. Charges of having received bribe money from a murder accused, Nagar Singh, one of the richest businessmen in J&K, were slapped on him. Nagar Singh had allegedly sought and obtained Mr. Beigh’s help in neutralizing some witnesses of the infamous Amandeep Singh murder case in which he and his son, the prime accused, had been arrested in 2009.

Mr. Beigh was subsequently suspended and lodged in Kot Bhalwal, the jail he had served as Superintendent for over four years.

Ms. Sehgal was removed and placed under suspension for “dereliction of duty” when a murder convict attacked the Pakistani prisoner Sanaullah on the jail premises on May 3, 2013.