The Orissa High Court has ordered the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the Odisha Police to pay an amount of Rs. 5 lakhs each as compensation to the wife of a tribal man who was killed in their custody in 2010.

The Bench of Chief Justice S. Muralidhar and Justice M.S. Raman observed that “He had no one to represent his interests or to give him legal assistance while in custody. The legal system appears to have completely failed him. The mandatory fundamental rights available to an arrested person as spelt out in in Article 22 (1) and (2) of the Constitution of India were violated with impunity in this case first by the CRPF and then the police.”

“There is no manner of doubt that irrespective of the Petitioner’s husband being labelled as a ‘maoist’ by the Opposite Parties, and even if he belonged to a ‘banned’ organisation, his fundamental rights under Article 22 (1) to (3) of the Constitution cannot be said to have been denuded. It is trite that a person is presumed innocent till he is found guilty. The mere suspicion that a person happens to belong to CPI (Maoist) group will not clothe the police with impunity to deal with him in any which way they like.” the Bench further added.

Advocate Prasanta Kumar Jena appeared for the petitioner and Additional Standing Counsel Ishwar Mohanty, Deputy Solicitor General P.K. Parhi and CGC B.S. Rayaguru appeared for the opposite parties.

The deceased-victim, a tribal man went in search of firewood and was carrying a country made ‘desi gun’ which was used to hunt birds and other small animals. He was caught by CRPF and was brought to the Police Station (Camp), where he was mercilessly beaten with the butts of the guns, lathis and kicks.

The CRPF did not inform the family member or relatives and had not even recorded his detention in any book. Two days later, the Sarpanch was called, and the dead body was handed over to him. The wife of the victim filed the Writ Petition before the High Court and had sought compensation for the custodial death of her husband.

The Court noted that except the FIR along with the counter affidavit and the version of the police, there was nothing on record which indicated that the victim belonged to the CPI (Maoist) group or that he was indulging in any criminal activities.

“It is not a mere coincidence that the deceased tribal person who was tortured to death while in custody after being labelled a maoist with not even an iota of evidence belonged to the poorer sections of the society.” remarked the Court.

The Court further said that the guidelines against custodial violence laid down by the Apex Court in the case of D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal (1997) 1 SCC 416 were not followed, and moreover, no convincing explanation was given by the opposite parties in support of their stand that the Petitioner’s husband died out of ‘natural causes’ while he was in their custody.

The Court further expressed its dismay over the fact that medical practitioners also supported the CRPF in hiding the custodial death and said that “it is unfortunate that the qualified medical personnel have by submitting a questionable medical report attempted to help the State authorities in particular CRPF, the law enforcement agency in the present case, and the police in whose custody the Petitioner’s husband died, to avoid their liability.”

Therefore, the Court ordered the CRPF and the Odisha State Police to pay Rs. 5 lakhs each to the petitioner within a period of eight weeks and further ordered the opposite parties to institute a proper inquiry into such conduct of the doctors involved and take to its logical conclusion.

Accordingly, the Writ Petition was disposed of.

Cause Title- Maria Kadaisma @ Kadaiska @ Salmina v. State of Odisha and Others

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