Team headed by B. Sandhya

Officials of the hurt and homicide wing of the State Police Crime Branch on Tuesday recorded the statement of 15 persons, including staff members and inmates of the State Mental Health Centre (SMHC) here, in connection with the custodial death of Satnam Singh, a 23-year-old man from Gaya in Bihar arrested from the Mata Amritanandamayi Math at Vallikavu in Kollam. He was found fatally injured in one of the cells of the SMHC on Saturday.

Inspector General of Police B. Sandhya headed the team of investigators who arrived at the centre in the morning. They spent the day there, talking to doctors, janitors and inmates individually and in groups. The agency also verified the admission register at the hospital and Satnam’s treatment records.

Officials said the Crime Branch was inquiring if there was any veracity in the allegation that five wardens of the hospital were responsible for his death.

The preliminary forensic inference was that traumatic injuries inflicted on the head, possibly using a blunt instrument, and throttling had caused the death. Investigators said they would rely on forensic and circumstantial evidence to crack the case.

The agency was investigating, among other things, whether Satnam was killed in a fracas that ensued when a group of five wardens allegedly attempted to overpower him to shave his beard and cut his hair forcibly.

Given Satnam’s spiritual and philosophical orientation, he could have resisted the move on the ground that it was against his religious belief, resulting in fatal violence, the agency suspects.

Investigators called in forensic experts to gather biological evidence from the suspected scene of crime inside the hospital. They were also asking why the centre authorities had rushed Satnam to the Government Medical College Hospital, after they reportedly found him injured and unconscious in the cell he shared with another inmate, without informing the local police.

The agency would also investigate if there was any dereliction of duty on the part of the duty doctor and the staff to ensure the safety and welfare of a person in judicial custody.

The Kollam police had arrested Satnam Singh on the charge of attempting to attack Mata Amritanandamayi during her public interaction with her devotees at her math on August 1 afternoon.

The math office-bearers detained Singh and handed him over to the police. The police subjected him to a medical examination before they produced him before a magistrate and got him remanded in judicial custody. The police said the doctor had reported serious injury on Satnam at the time they assumed his custody.

Satnam’s relative, Vimal Kishore, a New Delhi-based journalist, told The Hindu that he had seen no injuries on his cousin when he visited him in a jail in Karunagapally on Saturday.

The police said the prison authorities shifted Satnam to the SMHC after he ‘behaved violently.’

SMHC authorities said the youth had been violent when the jailors brought him from the prison to the centre in the early hours of August 3. He was put in solitary confinement, given medication and shifted to a cell housing another patient. The SMHC authorities said that they suspected that Satnam and the inmate fought each other in the cell, possibly between 4.30 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday. Hospital janitors found Satnam bleeding and lying unconscious at 7.30 p.m. when they arrived to serve dinner. They rushed him to the Medical College Hospital where he was pronounced dead an hour later. The Crime Branch was not apparently taking the official version of the SMHC at face value.

  • Hospital admission register verified

  • Preliminary forensic inference points to injuries on the head