//44 years in oblivion for a minor crime!

44 years in oblivion for a minor crime!

 2/15/2006 3:40:34 / Source ::: IANS

Lucknow: In yet another case of justice gone awry, a man arrested in 1961 has finally emerged from a mental asylum after four long decades, putting his family and jail officials in a quandary.

Shankar Dayal was booked in 1961 for assaulting a neighbour. Diagnosed as mentally ill, the following year he was transferred to a mental asylum where he spent the next 43 years.

He was declared fit recently, but everyone including his own family has assumed he was “dead”.

Dayal hails from Uttar Pradesh’s Unnao district, about 60 km from here. He assaulted Ganga Sewak following a petty dispute in November 1961. Dayal soon found himself behind bars.

Finding him mentally unstable, local jail authorities shifted him to a mental asylum in Varanasi. When his family members approached the Unnao prison authorities, they were told there was no inmate by his name. Presuming Dayal to be dead, his “widow” was married off to his younger brother.

Fate seems to have bizarre twists in store for Dayal. After four decades, the mental hospital sent a communication to the Unnao jail declaring him fit to return to the prison. The jail officials were at their wit’s end trying to trace the records of the forgotten man, who had been packed off to the Varanasi mental hospital on August 17, 1962. Apparently, no one cared to trace the man during these decades until a meeting of the hospital board was held on November 25, 2005 to review old cases.

Deputy jailor at Unnao prison S P Singh said: “I learnt about the case through a letter from the Varanasi mental hospital. I wrote back asking for details since many of the old records were missing.”It was only after the hospital reverted to the prison authorities Jan 20 that Dayal’s roots were traced to Maswasi village in Unnao district. “After receiving copies of the relevant documents order for Dayal’s transfer to the Varanasi mental hospital, I have referred the matter to the present additional district magistrate.”

Asked to comment, Jagatraj pleaded: “I have referred it to the chief judicial magistrate as ADMs do not any more have jurisdiction over criminal matters.” The chief judicial magistrate was not available for comment.

While the police were awaiting completion of bureaucratic formalities for Dayal’s return to the Unnao jail, a local journalist managed to trace his wife and grandchildren. “Taking the cue from the hospital superintendent, I went to Dayal’s village, where people were clueless. So I went inquiring about Ganga Sewak, whom Dayal had attacked with a sharp-edged weapon. Soon I met him and he guided me to Dayal’s wife in a nearby town, Shuklaganj”, an Amar Ujala correspondent told IANS. Local activists have sprung into action, coming to Dayal’s rescue. Unnao Bar Association president Narendra Awasthi told IANS, “We have decided to take up Shankar Dayal’s case and ensure his acquittal.”

In Lucknow senior advocate and judicial activist I.B. Singh said: “If necessary we will move the high court to get relief to the harassed man who has already undergone three times more imprisonment than a life term, which is 14 years.” Dayal’s wife Chandrawati and his son Saligram, born while he was in jail, said in Unnao that they were to go to Varanasi to meet him later yesterday.