In a major embarrassment for Maharashtra prison administration, it told a Mumbai court trying the sensational Shakti Mills compound gangrape case today that one of the five accused had "disappeared" only to find him in the jail hours later.
The blooper prompted the court to issue summons to Thane jail superintendent for personal appearance tomorrow to clarify the situation.
The embarrassing lapse came to light when the accused in the gangrape case of a young photojournalist were brought to the court for routine production.
Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam informed the sessions court that one of the accused Siraj Rehman Khan, who was lodged in Thane jail, was "untraceable", while three others--Vijay Jadhav, Kasim Bengali and Salim Ansari--had been produced.
Nikam's information was based on a prison official's report on the production warrant, issued by the court two days ago. Signed by an officer of Thane jail, the report said, "Since the accused has been handed over to the crime branch for investigation as per court’s order, the accused cannot be produced before the court."
"Special Public prosecutor made statement across the bar that the accused is not in their (crime branch’s) custody and is very much with jail. In this circumstance, the presence of the accused is very much essential and it is important to know where the accused is," Principal Judge Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi said.
The judge directed the jail superintendent to be present before her tomorrow to "clarify the situation" and produce the accused if he is found.
As the news was flashed across the audio-visual media, the prison authorities got into action and traced Khan at Thane jail.
"He is very much in the Thane jail. I spoke to the head of the Thane prison. I don't know what caused this confusion," Additional Director General (prisons) Meeran Borwankar told PTI.
Asserting that Khan had not escaped, U T Pawar, Superintendent of Thane prison said, "I am checking due to which administrative reason the accused was not produced before the court today."
The young photojournalist was gangraped by five accused, including a minor, when she had gone to the deserted Shakti Mills compound in central Mumbai on August 22 with a male colleague on assignment, triggering a public outrage and bringing alive shocking memories of December 16 gangrape of a paramedic in Delhi.
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