NEW DELHI (TIP): Ten years after three dreaded Khalistani terrorists allegedly involved in the assassination of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh escaped from Chandigarh jail, the Supreme Court on Thursday held four top jail officials guilty of negligence in conducting their duty and approved government’s decision to sack them.

Jagtar Singh Hawara, Paramjit Singh and Jagtar Singh Tara who were facing trial for the assassination of Beant Singh had escaped along with another inmate Jagdev Singh from Model Jail, Burail, Chandigarh during the intervening night of January 21-22, 2004 by digging an underground tunnel of 94 feet long.

A bench of Justices J S Khehar and S A Bobde after going through all the records came to conclusion that there was lapses on the part of jail officials and upheld government’s decision to dismiss jail superintendent Ved Mitter Gill, deputy jail superintendent, assistant jail superintendent and head warder.

“In our considered view, within the jail premises, only the jail staff can be permitted to function. And in case of lapses within the jail premises, it is the jail staff alone which is responsible,” the bench said 

“Had they performed their duties diligently, there could not have been any possibility, of the escape under reference. It cannot be overlooked, that the escape was made good, by digging the escape tunnel, which measured ninety four feet in length (with diagonal dimensions of 21″ x 21″),” it said.

The bench turned down the plea that there was no negligence on their part and the prisoners managed to escape because the police personnel, posted outside jail, were not vigilant. It said that police personnel cannot be blamed for the escape as they would be oblivious of the activities within the four walls of the jail itself.

“The determination by the competent authority, when viewed dispassionately with reference to the duties assigned to Gill, leaves no room for any doubt, that the competent authority was justified in concluding, that the four prisoners could never have escaped, if he and and the petitioners, had diligently discharged the duties assigned to them,” it said.

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