Custodial Death Among Worst Crimes In Civilised Society: Bombay High Court

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Custodial death is one of the worst crimes in a civilised society and the police cannot torture citizens in an inhuman manner under the guise of power, the Bombay High Court observed while asking the state government to pay ₹ 15 lakh as compensation to the mother of a man allegedly killed in police custody.
The Aurangabad bench, comprising Justices Vibha Kankanwadi and Abhay Waghwase, on Wednesday passed its judgment on a petition filed by one Sunita Kute who alleged that her 23-year-old son Pradip had died after being tortured and assaulted by two policemen attached to the Solapur police.

Kute sought a compensation of ₹ 40 lakh from the police and disciplinary action against the errant policemen.

“Custodial death is perhaps one of the worst crimes in a civilised society governed by the rule of law,” the bench said.

Though the police have the power to control the actions of people and the crime, it was not unfettered, it said.

“Under the guise of exercise of the said power they cannot torture or deal with a citizen in an inhuman manner,” the judgment said.

“The state is the protector of the life of its citizens and if its employee undertakes torturous acts under the guise of power, then it has to compensate such a citizen,” the court said.

The bench noted that in the present case, the victim was a 23-year-old man who had married just four months before his death.

The bench directed the Maharashtra government to pay a compensation of ₹ 15,29,600 to the victim’s mother.

“It will be open to the state to recover the amount from respondent 4 and 5 (the two errant policemen), as they have been revealed to be the persons responsible for the death of Pradip,” the court said.

As per the plea, the petitioner’s son Pradip, who was a sugarcane harvester, was stopped by the police when he was driving a tractor in November 2018.
The policemen started assaulting Pradip and others in the tractor for playing music, the petitioner claimed, adding that while the others managed to flee, Pradip died on the spot.

A FIR was then lodged by the petitioner against the policemen who had assaulted Pradip.

The errant police officials, however, refuted the allegations and claimed that they did not have any motive to kill the victim, who suffered from a brain disease and was feeling dizzy. He was taken to a hospital, where he was declared dead.

“We would like to say that there was no reason for the police to intercept the tractor driven by Pradip, even if they were having some objection regarding the sound, they could have told the same to Pradip in a dignified manner,” the court said in its judgment.

There was a violation of the fundamental rights of the deceased, as there was no reason for interception and hence no reason to mete out atrocity on the victim, the bench observed.

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