A Calcutta High Court Bench of Justice Hiranmay Bhattacharyya heard a case of custodial death and has held that police authorities have violated Article 21 of the Constitution by not following the guidelines laid down by the Apex Court in Lalita Kumari vs State of Uttar Pradesh and by not following the procedures outlined by the Civil Procedure Code.

Counsel Jayanta Narayan Chatterjee and Counsel Debasish Banerjee appeared for the Petitioner, while Counsel Subhabrata Datta and Counsel Debashis Sarkar appeared for the State.

In this case, a widow approached the Court alleging the custodial death of her husband. She prayed for a direction upon the respondent police authorities to register an FIR against the 4th respondent as well as all officers of the concerned police station and for an investigation by a competent investigating agency as well as the initiation of a disciplinary proceeding against the 4th respondent and for payment of adequate compensation to the petitioner.

She claimed that the constables of the police station had threatened her husband that he would be arrested and taken into custody if he failed to visit the police station. It was alleged that due to the constant threats and abuse at the police station, the petitioner's husband suffered a severe cardiac attack and ultimately succumbed to it.

Upon hearing the parties, the Court observed that procedures established through Section 41A (mandates the service of notice to the person against whom a complaint has been made) and Section 160 (contemplates an order in writing to be served in case the police officer requires attendance of such a person) of the CPC had not been complied with. In that context, it was noted that the decision taken by the police authorities to conduct an inquiry, preliminary or otherwise, had not been recorded in the General Diary. The Court also noted that the deceased was called to the police station without a notice or order being served.

In light of the same, the Court observed that "the respondent police authority while calling the husband of the petitioner to attend the police station has acted in gross violation of the provisions of the Code and also the direction in Lalita Kumari (supra). This Court accordingly holds that Article 21 has been violated in the case on hand."

Regarding the inaction of the police towards registering an FIR, the Court observed that "The manner in which the respondent police authorities have acted in the case on hand gives an impression in the mind of this Court that the police authorities are not ready to take steps on the basis of the complaint of the writ petitioner as the allegations were directed against the police officers. It appears to this Court that the police authorities have proceeded to act in a manner so as to hide the real facts from the Court rather than to unearth the real facts."

Noting that no fruitful purpose would be served by directing the police authorities to register a case, the Court directed the Court of a Magistrate of competent jurisdiction to register a complaint under Section 200 of the Code and to proceed thereafter in accordance with the law.

Cause Title: Shipra Dey vs The State of West Bengal & Ors.

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