Mumbai: Voicing concerns over rising custodial deaths, the Bombay HC recently said in most cases, police officers or jail authorities, accused of torturing and killing the deceased inmate, usually take a defence that the CCTV system was not working at the relevant time. The HC also said in such cases, the police, as well as the courts, must be on guards to ensure there is no cover up by the accused cops.
The bench of Justices Tanaji Nalawade and Mukund Sewlikar made the observations, ordering the Maharashtra Police to pay Rs8 lakh-compensation to the family of a man, who died in judicial custody.
The judges were dealing with a plea by the wife of the inmate, who highlighted the ‘suspicious’ manner in which her husband died in custody in January 2019. She highlighted the numerous injuries on his husband at the time of death and also the post-mortem report.
The reported concluded the inmate succumbed to head injuries and damage to the brain and such injury can be caused due to hard and blunt object. The bench noted defence taken by police at the time CCTV installed in the jail were dysfunctional.
“This court has noticed in many cases that when there is the complaint of atrocities by police or the officers from jail, an excuse is given that the CCTV system was not working at the relevant time,” Justice Nalawade said.
“When poor persons are victims (in such cases) every part of the system which includes police and the court need to be on guard as there are always attempts made to cover up the things,” it said.
Taking note of the other defence of the accused cops the deceased was suffering from fits, the judges said the probe agency ought to have made an enquiry with relatives of the deceased and neighbours to ascertain the correctness of the claims. However, no such enquiry was made.
“Thus, this court holds there is sufficient material to infer it was not a natural death and he died probably due to assault,” the judges held. As far as the compensation is concerned, the bench took into account the age and the profession of the deceased, who was a mason and earned a paltry Rs6,000 a month. “So, the court holds at least Rs8 lakh must be given to the widow as compensation. Initially, the state will be liable to pay the amount and if it desires it can, later on, fix the responsibility on the officers of the jail or the police, who are responsible for the unnatural death,” the bench ordered.