Even as doubts are being raised over the death of Swathi murder accused Ramkumar, with parents alleging that it was not a suicide but a murder, pictures of the ‘suicide spot’ from the prison are doing the rounds on social media.
Two photos, a long-shot of the spot in what seems to be a corridor, and close up of a broken switchboard with wires hanging out have been circulated online.
The News Minute cannot verify the authenticity of the pictures.
A senior prison official, on condition of anonymity, told TNIE that this was the spot at which Ramkumar killed himself by "biting" into a live wire.
The FIR filed over his death, based on a complaint filed by the jailor, says that Ramkumar, “who had been lodged in the Dispensary Block since July 4, 2016, wanted to drink water around 4.30 pm on Sunday. After Warder Pechimuthu opened the cell, ‘he went near the pot but quickly broke open the switchbox located nearby by delivering a strong punch with his hand and pulled out live wires and bit into it with his teeth.’”, reports The Hindu.
If Ramkumar committed suicide in the manner reported, observers point out, the prison officials could still be held responsible for negligence. V Kannadasan, a senior advocate and former prison counsel says, “This is definitely a case of negligence on the part of prison officials and the warder. When inmates are allowed to move freely, all precautions should be taken to keep the electricity box out of reach. This is negligence of duty.”
Kanadasan, however, points out that Puzhal is the most populated prison in the state with 2300 inmates presently and with only around 30 warders available. “One warder will be watching 200 prisoners in a shift. It is very difficult and not practical to watch these many inmates round the clock,” he argues.
But others indicate that there may be bigger issues with the Puzhal prison. Former Madras High Court Judge K Chandru told Newslaundry, “It was the responsibility of the jail officials to make sure that the accused was safe. Puzhal is said to be a state-of-the-art prison. Over the years there have been hundreds of complaints about drug smuggling inside the prison. Mobile phones were found among the prisoners. Not only should the death of Ramkumar be investigated, but also the state of affairs in the jail in the last five years.”
Several questions have been raised over the death of Ramkumar, including if he was murdered by prison officials. A judicial magistrate visited the prison for an enquiry on Monday, and the Madras HC is hearing a petition over the composition of the team of doctors to do the autopsy. Ramkumar’s father has asked for a person of his choice be a member of the postmortem team.