Holding the jail authorities liable for custodial death of a government school teacher, the High Court of Chhattisgarh granted a compensation of Rs. 15 lakhs to his legal heirs.
The case was filed by the parents of the deceased, Vijay Kumar Dansena, who was working as a teacher at Government High School in Bilaspur. He was arrested by the police under Section 107, 116 & 151 of Cr.P.C., pursuant to dispute which arose with the SDM while attending a pre-poll meeting. Subsequently, custodial death of the arrestee was reported.
The Respondents argued that the deceased was in habit of intoxication and because the deceased was not able to get liquor, he was infuriated and he caused grievous hurt to himself. Further, they claimed that the State could not be held liable because the negligent act was done at the behest of few officers and it was only liable to pay compensation to the Petitioners, which it had already done. The State had also recommended commencement of departmental enquiry against the responsible officers and those found guilty were departmentally punished, they submitted.
Not convinced by the feeble arguments of the Respondents, Justice Goutam Bhaduri held that the state machinery had failed at every step of this inquiry. Firstly, there was nothing in legislative corpus to detain a person beyond 24 hours under Section 151 or 107 or 116 of Cr.P.C. thus, detention of the deceased was not decided upon the statutory mandate and was a self evolved theory of the officers.
Secondly, the postmortem report was clear on the aspect that the deceased was not a heavy drinker. Further, he was brutally beaten in the jail which resulted into his death (as also reported in the magisterial enquiry report). Lastly, the court found that the department had attempted to manipulate the reports and evidence placed on record to shelve the liability of its officers.
Therefore, the court awarded a compensation of Rs.15 Lakhs to the legal heirs of the deceased in light of the Supreme court ruling in Rudul Sah v. State of Bihar & Anr., (1983) 4 SCC 141, and granted the government liberty to have recourse for recovery of the said amount against the guilty officers.
Petitioners were represented by Advocate Ali Asgar and Respondents by government pleader Sudeep Verma.