TT, Siliguri, May 9: A convict and an undertrial admitted to the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital fled yesterday from separate wards, six days after another undertrial was killed by a murder accused in the hospital’s prison cell.
Binod Mahato, a resident of Chopra in North Dinajpur, was admitted to the medicine ward of the hospital with chest pain and fever from Jalpaiguri Central Correctional Home on Saturday. He had been arrested on charges of bike theft and drug smuggling. The male medicine ward has 45 beds. Binod, according to sources in the hospital and police, has been missing since yesterday morning.
In the observation ward, Nazrul Sheikh, a convict serving life term for murder in the Jalpaiguri Central Correctional Home, was admitted on Friday with supposed chest pain. He fled from the ward, which has 10 beds, yesterday evening.
Mahato and Sheikh as well as three other undertrials were not kept in the prison cell of the hospital after the murder there on May 3. Nikhil Roy, a murder accused, killed Upen Barman, an activist of the Greater Cooch Behar Peoples’ Association, on May 3. But as Roy was still in the prison cell – being treated for a fractured leg – the hospital authorities did not think it safe to put the other inmates in the cell with four beds.
The Jalpaiguri Correctional Home authorities said one policeman each was posted for each of the five inmates.
“We got the information that two prisoners… fled from the wards yesterday. Police personnel were posted in the respective wards to guard them while they were being treated. We have informed the jail authorities about the incidents,” an official of north Bengal’s apex state hospital said.
The strength of police personnel for security of the prisoners admitted for treatment in the cell had been upgraded from four to eight since the incident.
“There are four beds in the prisoners’ cell and since only one prisoner Nikhil is still lodged there, three beds are vacant. However, we have been admitting prisoners who came after the murder in the wards, instead of the cell, for safety and to avert any untoward incident. Even under normal circumstances, we do admit prisoners in the wards if all the beds in the cell are occupied or if the prisoner needs to be admitted in wards because of the severity of his illness,” an NBMCH official said.
Siliguri police officers said their petition to take Nikhil into police custody was pending in the additional chief judicial magistrate’s court in Siliguri.
“Nikhil Roy is lodged in the prisoners’ cell and he is currently in judicial custody. We have filed a petition seeking permission to take him into police custody but it is still pending before the court,” a police official said.
Kalyan Kumar Pramanik, the additional inspector-general (north) of state correctional services, said the two policemen posted to guard the two prisoners who fled had been showcaused. Also, an inquiry had been started.
“We have already started an inquiry on the issue of two prisoners fleeing NBMCH yesterday. There was one policeman posted for each prisoner admitted to different wards of NBMCH. We have issued show-cause notices to the two police personnel who were guarding the two prisoners. Departmental action will be taken against them if lapses in their duty are found,” said Pramanik.