Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Tripura High Court directs state govt to pay Rs 2.5 lakh to woman tortured in police custody

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The Tripura High Court has directed the state respondents to pay a sum of Rs 2.5 lakh to a victim of custodial torture in police lock-up.

The Division Bench of Chief Justice Indrajit Mahanty and Justice S.G. Chattopadhyay disposed of a Suo Motu Public Interest Litigation registered on this issue.

On October 28, 20021, a news item came to be published in a local daily newspaper reporting custodial torture on a 28-year-old woman of Chanmari in the police lockup of GB TOP on 26.10.2021 as a result of which she was admitted to n AGMC & GBP Hospital at Agartala. The Chief Justice took suo motu notice of this grave and serious issue on the basis of the said report and pursuant to his direction this Public Interest Litigation came to be registered. Notices were issued to the State respondents including the Secretary, Home Department, Government of Tripura and Director General of Police.

From the facts and circumstances presented before the High Court, it is absolutely clear to the High Court that merely on the basis of a telephonic information received from a neighbour of the victim about her involvement in a theft case, police called her to GB TOP even without registering a case on the complaint received from the neighbour of the victim and without verifying the facts. From the medical reports available on record, it stands established to the Court that the victim was physically assaulted during interrogation in police custody.

In the case of Nilabati Behera (Smt) Alias Lalita Behera (Through the Supreme Court Legal Aid Committee) vs. State of Orissa and others reported in (1993) 2 SCC 746, the Apex Court held that the convicts, prisoners or under-trials must not be denuded of their fundamental rights under Article 21 and only such restrictions as are permitted by law can be imposed. The prison authority and the police would have the responsibility to ensure that the person in custody is not deprived of his right to life, even if his liberty is circumscribed by the fact that the person is in confinement. The Top Court held that even limited liberty is precious and it is the duty of the State to ensure that even a person in custody is dealt with in accordance with the procedure established by law. It was further held by the Apex Court that the Courts are under an obligation to grant relief in exercise of its jurisdiction under Articles 32 and 226 of Constitution to the victim or the heir of the victim whose fundamental rights under Article 21 of the Constitution of India are established to have been infringed by calling upon the State to repair the damage done by its officers to the fundamental rights of the citizens.

Therefore the Court observed that in the instant case, admittedly, the victim was not formally arrested by police but, undisputedly, she was detained in police custody for a considerable time for interrogation. The victim was therefore entitled to all the safeguards provided under the guidelines issued in the case of D.K. Basu (supra). But, apparently, the victim was deprived of those safeguards and she was tortured and maltreated in police custody.

Having observed thus, the Bench is of the considered view that the victim is entitled to monetary compensation for the wrongs done to her. In view of the given facts and circumstances of the case, the Bench directed the State-respondents to pay a sum of Rs 2,50,000 to the victim and the said amount of compensation be deposited by the respondents with the Registry of the Court within one month of the date of order.

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