Special Correspondent

To the family of a person who died in custody

CHENNAI: The Madras High Court has ordered a compensation of Rs.2 lakh to the family of a person who died in police custody in 1998.

In its order, a Division Bench, comprising Justices P.K.Misra and K.Chandru, agreeing with counsel said the finding that the arrest of the accused was not shown on record was enough to hold that the authorities were guilty of violating the Constitution and also the Supreme Court judgment in the D.K.Basu case.

In her petition, M.Kalithai of Nelkattumseval in Tiruneveli district, said her husband Marisami was arrested along with two others on September 16, 1998, taken to the Sankarankoil police station and kept in custody around 6.30 a.m. At noon, Marisami was found hanging in the toilet attached to the police station. He was taken to a local hospital, where he died.

The RDO in his report stated that the death was due to suicide. Based on the post-mortem report, he stated that Marisami tied his lungi to the window bar and hanged himself.

The death was due to suffocation and hanging and not due to police torture. The District Collector forwarded his report to the State government in 1999.

The government held Inspector Vijayaraghavan of Vasudevanallur police station, who was in-charge of the Sankarankoil police station, guilty of retaining the accused without properly recording the arrest in the station register.

Fixing the responsibility of having allowed the accused to stay with the lungi on and thereby facilitating suicide, the government imposed certain punishments on the Inspector, an SI and four constables.

The State prayed that the petition may be dismissed. The government refused to pay the usual compensation of Rs.1 lakh as it said it was a case of suicide and not covered by a G.O of 1998.

The Bench said the G.O. could not be the “be-all and end-all” in the matter of granting compensation in a case of human rights abuse in a police station.

As per the dictum of the Supreme Court in various other cases, the report of the RDO deserved to be discarded. The illegal arrest of Marisami and lack of care in saving his life while in the police station had been sufficiently proved, it said.