Ram Singh, the main accused in the sensational Vasant Vihar gang rape of a young physiotherapy student in a running bus last December, was found hanging in his prison cell inside the high security Tihar Central Jail here on Monday.
While a judicial inquiry into the death of the 34-year-old undertrial is on, his family has alleged he was murdered. However, jail authorities suspect it to be a case of suicide.
Singh was lodged in a cell of Jail No.3 along with three other undertrials. The incident came to light around 5.45 a.m. when a guard on an early-hour shift spotted him hanging from the ceiling grill with threads drawn from a carpet wrapped around his neck. The other three inmates were then asleep.
The guard raised an alarm and alerted his seniors. A doctor was summoned and the accused was examined. When the doctor did not find any pulse, he declared him dead.
Subsequently proceedings were initiated to intimate family members and for inquest by the magistrate.
The jail officials informed the police around 7.30 a.m., following which the body was brought down.
The magistrate soon reached the spot and initiated a probe.
A statement issued by the jail administration said: “The matter is being inquired into by a judicial officer as per Section 176 Cr.PC.
The exact cause of death would be known after receipt of the inquiry officer report which includes the post-mortem report and forensic examination.”
Inside the cell, the authorities found a bucket, which they suspect was used by the undertrial to reach the ceiling grill.
His younger brother Mukesh, also an accused in the case and lodged in another jail, was among those informed. He was allowed to see the body after he returned from a court appearance around 2 p.m. “Singh’s parents had reached the jail soon after they were informed,” said a jail official.
Police sources said it was likely that the incident took place some time after 3.30 a.m. While jail officials indicated that Singh committed suicide and there did not seem to be any foul play, his lawyer V.K. Anand rejected the claim, stating that there were no circumstances for his client to commit suicide. He alleged that Singh had been murdered and that the arguments of the defence had weakened the prosecution’s case and they would have proved Singh’s innocence.
“I met him on Friday too. He used to be in the court for several hours for trial and there was no indication that he would commit suicide. The circumstances under which he died should be probed,” Mr. Anand said, adding that he would move an application seeking better protection for the other accused.
For his part, Singh’s father Mangelal said his son could not have committed suicide as both his hands were broken. He alleged that his son was murdered by the jail authorities in connivance with the gang-rape victim’s family. He also alleged that his son had been sodomised inside the jail.
“Why would he commit suicide? He was never afraid of being hanged even if convicted. In fact, soon after his arrest he had expressed his wish to be hanged. They did not allow the legal process to be completed and killed my child,” he charged.
Following an order by the magistrate to conduct the post-mortem by a panel of senior doctors at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, Singh’s body was transported to the AIIMS mortuary around 4 p.m.
Earlier, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said, following a meeting with Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, that a magisterial inquiry was ordered as per law.
Singh, along with the other adult co-accused, was to be produced at the Saket Court on Monday afternoon for the trial of the gang rape-cum-murder case. A resident of Ravi Dass Camp at R.K. Puram, he was the first person to be arrested after the police tracked down the chartered bus in which the victim was raped. On the basis of his purported revelations, the police arrested the other five accused and made crucial recoveries. In January, he was charge-sheeted along with his brother Mukesh and accomplices Pawan Gupta, Vinay Sharma and Akshay. Singh had pleaded not guilty in the court.