Gauhati HC Orders Assam Govt To Pay Rs.5 Lakhs Compensation To Custodial Death Victim's Wife Due To Error Of Judgment On Part Of Medical Authorities

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The bench was hearing a writ petition filed by the deceased’s wife who died in custody.

The Gauhati High Court recently directed the Home Department of the Assam Government to pay compensation of Rs. 5 lakhs to the woman whose husband suffered custodial death because of an error of judgment on the part of medical authorities regarding his underlying medical condition.

The division bench of Justices Achintya Malla Bujor Barua and Robin Phukan was hearing a writ petition by Shahar Banu, wife of the deceased who died in custody. She claimed compensation for family members by raising an allegation that her husband died at the police station because of internal injuries inflicted upon him by police authorities.

The bench said that “ the fundamental right to life of deceased under Article 21 of Indian Constitution which also includes right to receive adequate medical treatment even in custody had been violated to the extent that although his underlying medical conditions indicated that he had certain symptoms which are also symptoms applicable to the medical condition Cardiomegaly, it was an error of medical judgment on the part of the medical authorities who had examined him not to have detected the medical condition of Cardiomegaly and immediately refer him for specialized medical treatment for the medical condition.”

“Cardiomegaly in medical terms is understood to be a medical condition in which the heart becomes enlarged and is also commonly referred to as the enlarged heart, where because of the underlying conditions of the person, the heart is made to work harder. Cardiomegaly is also in medical terms understood to be a serious condition which can result in congestive heart failure,” the court noted

In the year 2016, the deceased was arrested by police personnel of Dhing Police station along with Special Task Force under section 25(1)(A) of the Arms Act and section 51 (1)(A) of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972. On August 25, 2016, at 6:30 A.M. he died in B.P. Civil Hospital Nagaon. Therefore, the deceased’s wife filed a writ petition.

On August 23, 2016, the Medical and Health officer, Central Jail Nagaon examined that he was having pain and swelling over his hips, legs and body. On August 24, 2016, he was under the same treatment. On August 26, 2016, at around 6:10 A.M. after an examination, he was transferred to B.P. Civil Hospital Nagaon for emergency OPD because he was suffering pain in the abdomen, distended chest pain, respiratory difficulty, systematic examination-CNS normal and chest crepitation.

Respondents had filed the death report and post -mortem report of the deceased which shows that the cause of death is due to cardiogenic shock which is a result of myocardial infarction.

Adv. D Nath, Senior Govt. Advocate submitted that the medical and post-mortem report indicates that it was a case of natural death rather than death caused due to any injuries being inflicted on the person arrested by the police or by the jail authorities.

The bench after hearing the arguments observed that” if the symptoms that were stated were of medical cardiomegaly noticed by medical authorities when he was earlier examined, the question that arises in everybody’s mind is as to why the medical authorities who had examined the deceased could not apply its medical mind and arrive at some kind of diagnosis that there is a possibility of it being a case of Cardiomegaly and accordingly immediately refer him for the specialized medical treatment and diagnosis.

The present bench relied upon the judgment of Nilabati Behera  vs. State of Orissa, 1993 and noted that the “State is responsible if the person in custody of police is deprived of life except according to the procedure established by law and right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India cannot be denied to convicts, prisoners or undertrials in custody, except according to the procedure established by law.”

Case Title: Shahar Banu vs. The State of Assam and Ors.

Statute: Section 25(1)(A) of Arms Act and section 51 (1)(A) of Wildlife Protection Act 1972