The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has asked for action taken reports from the authorities of eight States, where 15 people died following police action in the first month or so of the lockdown, according to the proceedings in the cases.
The NHRC acted on a May 16 complaint by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), which stated the 15 men — four in Andhra Pradesh, three in Uttar Pradesh, two each in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, one each in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Punjab and West Bengal — had died after police action or in custody from March 25 to April 30.
The CHRI complaint cited media reports that said 12 of the deaths had occurred after police action such as beatings, allegedly as “punishment” for violating the lockdown imposed to control the spread of COVID-19 and three in police custody. Nine of the 12 died of their injuries and the remaining by suicide, the complaint said.
“Given the COVID-19 lockdown, restrictions on movement and limited access to courts, the families have very limited recourse to seek justice,” the complaint by CHRI researcher Raja Bagga stated.
The Commission took up three cases of alleged custodial death on June 4 and asked the police commissioners or SP of the respective district to submit detailed reports by July 26.
Alleged custodial deaths
The alleged custodial death cases included the death of Kalapala Krupkar on March 28 at the Gudivada police station in the Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh. He had been arrested with five others for allegedly running a gambling racket and died in police custody. While the police said he had experienced breathlessness and was taken to hospital, where he died, villagers said he may have died due to police brutality, the complaint said.
The death of Raju Velu Devendra on March 30, allegedly in the Juhu police station in Mumbai, was due to beatings by police, his family said. The police, however, denied the charge saying he was lynched while trying to commit a robbery.
The third case was of Munipillappa alias Muni Kulla, who was accused of stealing liquor in Hoskote in Karnataka. According to his wife, he was taken by the police for questioning on April 7, assaulted and his body dumped in a well near his house on April 10.
In the other 12 cases, the NHRC took cognisance of the matters on June 1 and gave the district magistrates and police chiefs time till July 11 to submit their reports.