21 Jan 2023 4:38 AM GMT
The Bombay High Court on Wednesday held that for a death to be a custodial death, it doesn't matter whether the injuries occurred inside the police station or at an outpost as long as the injuries were inflicted when the deceased was in any manner in the custody of the police.The court awarded Rs. 15,29,600/- as compensation to the mother of a 23-year-old man who died after he was assaulted...
The Bombay High Court on Wednesday held that for a death to be a custodial death, it doesn't matter whether the injuries occurred inside the police station or at an outpost as long as the injuries were inflicted when the deceased was in any manner in the custody of the police.
The court awarded Rs. 15,29,600/- as compensation to the mother of a 23-year-old man who died after he was assaulted by two police officers in 2018. The State can recover the amount from the responsible officers, it added.
A division bench of Justice Vibha Kankanwadi and Justice Abhay S. Waghwase of Aurangabad said:
“For custodial death it need not be the injuries which are inflicted in a Police Station or an Out Post. In custodial death the injuries should have been inflicted when the person was in any way in the custody of the police officer and, therefore, we take the inquiry report given by learned Magistrate as the strong piece of evidence to support the contention of the petitioner that death of Pradip was a custodial death, which is one of the heinous crimes.”
The court referred to D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal and reiterated the Apex Court’s observation that custodial death is one of the worst crimes in a civilized society.
The court added, “though police have powers to control the actions of the people and the crime; yet, it is not unfettered under the guise of exercise of the said power they cannot torture or deal with a citizen in inhuman manner. The State is the protector of the life of its citizens if it’s employee undertakes torturous act under the guise of power, then it has to compensate such citizen or legal representative of such citizen.”
According to the petitioner, she, along with her son - the victim; his wife, and his cousin, was transporting sugarcane on a tractor. The police intercepted the tractor allegedly on the the ground that "he was playing song in tape recorder through speaker" and the sound was loud. The victim was then assaulted by the accused and died on the spot. Hence the petitioner approached the high court.
The cause of death was head injuries with compression of neck with injury to both lungs. Offence under section 302 IPC (punishment for murder) was registered against the two police officers.
Witness statements revealed that the deceased was assaulted when he was still sitting at the steering of the tractor by a police head constable with a 3-4 feet long stick. Another police constable assaulted him with hand. They then dragged him into the outpost police station. After some time, he was taken to the hospital where he was declared dead.
The Judicial Magistrate First Class conducted inquiry and concluded that the death was homicidal and occurred when he was in police custody.
The court relied on D.K. Basu and said that it can entertain the petition despite the pending trial and guilt of accused officers not having been established.
The court said that the petitioner, the deceased, and the other persons travelling in the tractor did not know the officers and hence the question of implicating them does not arise. The witnesses are consistent in saying that the assault was by kicks, fist blows, and a stick, it noted.
The accused officers relied on medical officers' statements that there was no external injury and marks of assault on the deceased. However, the court noted that when deceased was taken to the hospital, others accompanied the family and hence there was no question of infliction of injuries at a later point of time. Further, the post-mortem report suggests 43 external injuries before death, it noted.
“Therefore, that evidence is sufficient to arrive at a conclusion that those injuries were inflicted by respondent Nos.4 and 5. Those injuries were inflicted when Pradip was sitting on tractor, then he was taken inside the Out Post and, therefore, it amounts to custodial death,” said the court.
The court also said that there was no reason for the accused officers to intercept the tractor. “When there was no reason for interception and then no reason for police atrocities, there is violation of fundamental rights of the deceased. Therefore, grant of compensation in a proceedings under Article 226 of the Constitution of India for the established violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India is an exercise of the Courts under the public law jurisdiction for penalizing the wrong doer and fixing the liability for the public wrong on the State which failed in the discharge of its public duty to protect the fundamental rights of the citizen.”
The court decided the compensation using the method for determining compensation for motor vehicle accident cases. It gave Rs. 13,29,600/- towards loss of income and dependency with an additional Rs. 2,00,00/- for police atrocities and violation of fundamental rights.
Advocate S. R. Kedar represented the petitioner. Additional Public Prosecutor A. M. Phule represented the State while Advocate M. S. Bhosale represented the two constables.
Case no. – Criminal Writ Petition No. 1647 of 2019
Case Title – Sunita w/o Kalyan Kute v. State of Maharashtra and Ors.
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Bom) 40
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