Madras High Court Orders Exhumation And Re-Postmortem Of Body After Family Alleges Death Was Due To Custodial Violence

Upasana Sajeev

20 May 2024 11:52 AM GMT

  • Madras High Court Orders Exhumation And Re-Postmortem Of Body After Family Alleges Death Was Due To Custodial Violence

    The Madras High Court recently ordered the Villupuram District Collector to exhume the dead body of a man after his family approached the court alleging that the man had died as a result of custodial torture. Justice R Sakthivel noted that the actions of the police personnel created a serious suspicion around the death of the man and thus the family's suspicion couldn't be brushed...

    The Madras High Court recently ordered the Villupuram District Collector to exhume the dead body of a man after his family approached the court alleging that the man had died as a result of custodial torture.

    Justice R Sakthivel noted that the actions of the police personnel created a serious suspicion around the death of the man and thus the family's suspicion couldn't be brushed aside. Thus, finding that an enquiry would be necessary to unearth the truth and noting that the same should not cause any prejudice to the authorities, the court directed the exhumation of the body and ordered re-postmortem.

    β€œIn view of the facts and circumstances of the case, this Court is of the view that, the suspicion of the petitioner that her husband died of custodial torture is reasonable and cannot be brushed aside easily. For the same reason, the enquiry contemplated under Section 176 of Cr.P.C., is also essential to clear the clouds and unearth the truth. It would not cause any prejudice to the respondents. As a matter of fact, if re-postmortem is conducted and the result negatives the contention of the petitioner, it would enhance the reputation of the police among the public,” the court said.

    The family of the deceased Raja had approached the court seeking directions to the authorities to exhume the body and conduct a re-postmortem adhering to the norms. The family had also sought a copy of the post-mortem certificate along with videographs of the postmortem.

    Raja's wife had alleged that he was illegally detained and subjected to custodial torture by the police personnel including the Sub-Inspector of Police at the Villupuram Taluk Police Station and his health deteriorated as a consequence of the injury leading to his death. She also informed the court that the family was not permitted to see Raja's body and the body was handed over in a hasty manner after the postmortem which was conducted within 30 minutes. She also submitted that the police had pressurized the family to cremate the body instead of burying it.

    The police, on the other hand, argued that Raja was arrested for possessing Brandy bottles for sale without any permit or license and that he was enlarged on station bail on the same day. The authorities argued that there was not even an iota of evidence for custodial torture or harassment by the police and that the allegations were baseless.

    The authorities argued that the statements of the doctor prove that Raja's body did not have any external injuries. It was further argued that if there were external injuries, the family would have raised objections then itself which was not done.

    The court noted that altough the statements of three doctors were taken under Section 161(3) of the CrPC, these statements were not despatched to the Jurisdictional Magistrate till date which created a cloud over the authority's case.

    The court also noted that Raja was released on station bail as he was feeling unwell and fizzy as per the Prisoner's Search Register. The court observed that if Raja was not feeling well while he was in the custody of the police, the police ought to have taken him to the hospital which was not done.

    Thus, finding that an inquiry under Section 176 of CrPC was essential to unearth the truth, the court directed the authorities to exhume the body and conduct a re-postmortem with a team of two Doctors having Master's Degrees in Forensic Medicine, one from Madras Medical College and one from KAP Vishwanathan Government Medical College, Trichy.

    The court also directed the authorities to follow the guidelines laid down by the court scrupulously.

    Counsel for the Petitioner: Mr.Henri Tiphagne

    Counsel for the Respondent: Mr.S.Udayakumar Government Advocate

    Citation: 2024 LiveLaw (Mad) 205

    Case Title: Anju v Home Secretary and Others

    Case No: W.P.NO.13141 OF 2024

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