HC registers PIL on payout for families in custody deaths
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.