HC reg­is­ters PIL on pay­out for fam­i­lies in cus­tody deaths

The Times of India (Mumbai edition) - - TIMES CITY - Shibu.Thomas@ times­group.com

Mum­bai: Bom­bay high court has reg­is­tered a suo motu pub­lic in­ter­est lit­i­ga­tion to com­pen­sate fam­i­lies of pris­on­ers who have met an “un­nat­u­ral death” in jails since 2012 and ini­ti­ate prison re­forms. The Supreme Court had last month di­rected high courts to lodge a suo motu PIL on the is­sue. Over the past decade and a half, Ma­ha­rash­tra has topped cus­to­dial death charts an­nu­ally. A di­vi­sion bench of Jus­tices Vi­jaya Kapse-Tahilra­mani and Makarand Karnik on Fri­day is­sued no­tices to ad­di­tional chief sec­re­tary (home) Sud­hir Shri­vas­tav, direc­tor gen­eral of po­lice Satish Mathur and other se­nior of­fi­cers to re­spond to the pe­ti­tion. The bench also ap­pointed ad­vo­cate Man­jiri Shah as am­i­cus cu­riae (friend of the court) to as­sist it on the is­sue.

“The is­sue with which we are con­cerned in this PIL is to iden­tify next of kin of pris­on­ers who have ad­mit­tedly died un­nat­u­ral deaths in prisons in Ma­ha­rash­tra, as recorded by Na­tional Crime Records Bu­reau (NCRB) in 2012-15 and even there­after, and to award suit­able com­pen­sa­tion to them (un­less com­pen­sated ear­lier).

The other is­sue to be looked into is over­all con­di­tions and fa­cil­i­ties in prisons in the state,” the judges said. The court has sched­uled the mat­ter for hear­ing on Novem­ber 1.

Ma­ha­rash­tra has topped the chart for most cus­to­dial deaths for16 con­sec­u­tive years since1999; 373 were re­ported from 1999-2015. The SC or­der last month was based on NCRB re­ports of over 100 “un­nat­u­ral deaths” in prisons in 2012-15. The SC said the dis­tinc­tion by NCRB be­tween nat­u­ral and un­nat­u­ral deaths was un­clear. “If a pris­oner dies due to lack of proper med­i­cal at­ten­tion or timely med­i­cal at­ten­tion, would that be clas­si­fied as a nat­u­ral or un­nat­u­ral death?” asked the SC bench. “It is im­por­tant for the cen­tral and state gov­ern­ments to re­alise a per­son who suf­fers an un­nat­u­ral death in prison is also a vic­tim, some­times of a crime, apa­thy or both, the judges ob­served while rul­ing that their fam­i­lies were en­ti­tled to com­pen­sa­tion. The HC is also hear­ing pe­ti­tions on cus­to­dial deaths in po­lice lock-ups. It had or­dered CCTV cam­eras in po­lice sta­tions and crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings against ac­cused of­fi­cers.

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