Custodial Death Is Worst Crime In Civilized Society: Bombay HC Grants Rs 15 Lakh Compensation To Deceased's Mother

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The high court granted compensation to the mother of the victim after noting that the state is required to compensate for the tortuous acts and for dealing with the citizens in an inhuman manner.

A Division Bench of the Bombay High Court (Aurangabad Bench) comprising Justice Smita Kankanwadi and Justice Abhay Waghase recently granted a compensation of Rs. 15 lakhs to the mother of the deceased who died in police custody.

The case pertains to an FIR that was registered by the mother of the victim after the said incident took place. As per the mother of the victim, in November 2018 when the deceased, his brother, and his wife were going in a tractor, two policemen stopped them because the deceased was playing loud music. Subsequently, the victim was severely beaten by the two officers. When the two officers took the victim to the hospital he was declared dead.

The Advocate for the petitioner argued that statements of the witnesses, spot panchnama, inquest panchnama, and the postmortem report, showed about 43 surface wounds and it also showed internal corresponding injuries, which had led to the conclusion regarding probable cause of death.

The Additional Public Prosecutor informed the court the officer who conducted the investigation had categorically stated that in the investigation it had been revealed that two officers were responsible for the death of the deceased.

The Advocate for the two officers accused denied that they had taken the deceased in custody and beaten him, as a result of which he died. He submitted that there was no motive to kill the deceased and that he had some brain disease due to which he had died. Further, he submitted before the court that the officer had taken him to the hospital as he was feeling dizzy and then he was declared dead. He also relied on Dr. Arti Bhandari's report which said that the deceased was having brain disease and she had not noted any external injury.

The court said that the state is the protector of the life of citizens and it has to compensate for the torturous act. It said,

"Custodial death is perhaps one of the worst crimes in a civilized society governed by the rule of law. 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”.

The court rejected the arguments of the two officers and said that there was a violation of the fundamental rights of the deceased. The order read,

“We would also like to say that there was no reason for respondents Nos.4 and 5 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. When there was no reason for interception and then no reason for police atrocities, there is violation of fundamental rights of the deceased.”

While granting compensation of Rs. 15 lakhs to the mother of the victim the court said,

“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 wrongdoer 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.”

Case Title: Sunita Kute vs State of Maharashtra & Ors.