Jail DGP orders another probe into Mavelikkara custodial death

Police Torture

Kottayam: Kerala Director General of Police (Prisons) Rishiraj Singh has ordered for another investigation into the death of a prisoner at the special sub-jail in Mavelikkara in Kerala's Alappuzha district. He has ordered for a fresh probe considering the report of the magistrate and media coverage over the alleged custodial death of the accused in an insurance fraud case.

Kumarakom native M J Jacob was found dead in the jail on March 20. It is suspected that the 68-year-old was suffocated to death with a handkerchief inserted in his mouth.

Singh had rejected the first probe report that said Jacob, accused in an insurance fraud case, had committed suicide and there was no foul play from the part of the police personnel.

DIG (south region) S Santosh, who conducted the preliminary investigation, has been given the charge of the re-probe. He would visit the Mavelikara sub-jail on Sunday to collect evidence.

The Chief Judicial Magistrate in Mavelikkara, Viveja Raveendran, had found that the findings of the preliminary investigation were wrong.

Jacob was found dead around 6 am in the special sub-jail on March 21 a day after he was arrested.

Remanded in haste?

It is alleged that the Thiruvalla Police showed undue haste to arrest Jacob and sent him on remand, but was soft on Ajith Thomson, the second-accused in the insurance fraud case. Though Ajith had turned up before the Thiruvalla cops, he was not arrested.

Jacob's relatives point to a conspiracy by citing the leniency shown to Ajith.

Jacob, who was taken into custody around noon on March 20, 2018, was presented at the magistrate’s house at night itself. He was charged with IPC 420 (cheating), 488, 471 (forging documents) and 120 B (conspiracy). Bail can be given by the court for these charges.

As he was presented before the magistrate at night, Jacob could not seek the service of an advocate. As he was taken into custody on March 20 noon, he could have been presented in court on March 21, it is pointed out. His relatives alleged that the hasty move was made to prevent him from getting bail.

Why Jacob's aide was not arrested?

The police had filed a case in the fraud case on January 4, 2019. Jacob was arrested and remanded on March 20. He was found dead at the sub-jail the next day. But no investigation was held to nab Ajith over the course of this period.

The police claimed that Ajith had applied for anticipatory bail plea at the High Court and this prevented them from making the arrest. However, it has been found that Ajith gave the anticipatory bail petition only on June 26. Thiruvalla SI K Prahaladan said that Ajith's bail plea was marked as 'pending' on the High Court website.

Ajith was in charge of Kerala at the insurance company. Only after Ajith gives the nod, can the insurance company hand over the money to the applicant. "Ajith too has a role in the case, just like Jacob," SI K Prahalad who was heading the investigation, said.

Jacob was reportedly made the first accused as the money was transferred to his account. The company suspected that Ajith had played an equal if not more role in the fraud.

The police had reportedly not even bothered to investigate if anyone other than Jacob and Ajith were involved in the case.

The Mumbai-based Ramtirth Leasing & Finance Private Limited, the complainant in the fraud case, had checked with the Kerala cops on why Ajith was not getting arrested.

The cops reportedly replied that Ajith was cooperating with the probe and that he had assured them that he would appear at the station whenever he would be summoned. However, after a row erupted, this stance was changed. It was said that Ajith had gone missing and he had applied for bail.

Jacob was running the Diabetic And Rejuvinaton Centre and Stam Fort Medical Centre at Eraviperoor in Pathanamthitta. A case was filed against Jacob and Ajith after the Mumbai-based company filed a police complaint that the duo had forged documents of patients who did not seek treatment at hospitals and siphoned off Rs 69.45 lakh.

As many as 38 people fell victims to the fraud. The police had taken the statements of 20 of them.

Initial probe findings

The FIR said that when Jacob was brought to the jail on March 20 night, he was wearing shirt and pants. His request to take his handkerchief along was agreed upon as he was sweating profusely, it is said.

There were 13 prisoners in the cell at that time. Jacob was lying face-down on the floor. Another prisoner was brought to the cell that night, it is said.

Allegations have also been raised that the CCTV cameras at the jail were switched off when Jacob was reportedly assaulted by the police. The preliminary report said that the CCTV camera did not function for 20 minutes. However, it does not mention that the CCTV camera was not functioning since 2.22 am on March 21.

The report pointed out that CI Mohanlal had twice visited the jail. However, his name was not mentioned in the register during one of his visits and the report too failed to flag this.

The report said that the CI went to the prison to advise the jail authorities to be careful of prisoner Manu S Nair.

The intelligence wing of the Kerala Police, which has begun the investigation into Jacob's death, would also check the CI's visit to the prison to meet prisoner Manu.

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