New Delhi: Ram Singh, the man who was believed to be the principal perpetrator of the Dec 16 gang-rape in the capital, reportedly committed suicide in Delhi's high security Tihar Jail Monday, police said. His family alleged he was murdered.
According to jail officials Ram Singh, 35, who was in ward number 5 of Jail number 3, hanged himself by the grill of a window, using a bedsheet. But what is curious about the whole incident was that none of the three other inmates of the cell noticed it.
Kept in a cell shared by three others, also undertrials, Ram Singh used a bucket to reach the grill to hang himself. Inmates are given bedsheet, bucket and a mug to take bath.
Officials refused to identify the three inmates who shared the cell with Ram Singh, the prime accused in the physiotherapist gang-rape that shook the collective conscience of the country and made for shocking news across the world.
Ram Singh was also known to suffer from deformity in his left hand.
"Undertrial prisoner Ram Singh, son of Mangel Ram, who was lodged in Jail number 3 since Dec 23, 2012 was found hanging at around 5:45 a.m.," Tihar authorities said in an official statement.
"The matter is being inquired into by the judicial officer. The exact cause of death would be known after receipt of inquiry officer report which also includes post-mortem examination report by forensic specialist."
"An inquiry has been ordered to ascertain how Ram Singh committed suicide in the high security Tihar Jail," G. Sudhakar, Deputy Inspector General (Prisons), Tihar Jail, said.
But his family alleged he was murdered and demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry.
"He was killed and later hanged in the jail. He told us several times that he was threatened in the jail. We lodged a complaint in this regard. It was not suicide. We demand a CBI inquiry," his father Mangelal told reporters outside Tihar jail.
His father also said that his sons, both Ram Singh and his brother Mukesh, had recently told him that they were being sodomised and tortured by the other inmates in the prison.
V.K. Anand, his lawyer, also alleged "foul play" and demanded a full-fledged inquiry into the incident.
He also said that Ram Singh was not in a depressed state as is being highlighted by jail officials.
"There is some foulplay. He cannot commit suicide. He is not such a person that he can commit suicide. He was very happy with the way the trial was going on," the lawyer said.
Tihar sources said Ram Singh was earlier under suicide watch, but the alert was later called off after it was assessed that he was behaving normally and was not showing any signs of depression or talking about ending his life.
Lawyer A P Singh, appearing for Vinay Sharma and Akshay Singh, said that Ram Singh was "killed by jail authorities" and that Tihar is no longer safe for undertrials to be lodged in.
"Now I want that my clients should be released on bail as Tihar is no more safe place for them also. They will also be killed," he further said.
Ram Singh was the driver of the bus in which the 23-year-old woman was raped by six males, including him and his younger brother. The six males, including a minor, also thrashed the woman's friend and later threw them out of the moving bus in the cold December night out of the street - bleeding and without clothes.
The young student died of massive internal injuries in a Singapore hospital two weeks later.
Ram Singh, who had confessed to the crime, had been charged in 13 cases in connection with the Dec 16 incident, and had been facing day-to-day trial in a fast-track court. He was supposed to be taken to the court Monday too.
Sources said all the five men were kept under suicide watch since January after they stopped interacting with other jail inmates and even between themselves.
The rape victim's 20-year-old brother expressed shock over the incident.
"Ram Singh should have faced the gallows. He should have been hanged publicly. Ram Singh was aware that there was strong evidence against him and that he could get the death penalty," the victim's brother told IANS.
Lawyers and experts are of the view that trial would not be affected by the suicide.
The others accused in the case, Pawan, 19, and Akshay, 29, are held in Jail No. 4, Vinay, 20, and Mukesh, 26, are in Jail No. 7.
The sixth accused is a juvenile, lodged separately and is being tried by the Juvenile Justice Board.
As questions were raised about the monitoring of undertrials in India's largest jail, officials immediately ordered an inquiry into the incident.