Tripura High Court: In a public interest litigation concerning custodial torture on a 28-year-old woman in the police lockup, the division bench of Indrajit Mahanty, CJ. and S.G. Chattopadhyay, J. took suo motu notice of this grave and serious issue based on the newspaper report and observed that the victim was not formally arrested by police, but she was detained in police custody for a considerable period for the purpose of interrogation. Further, the medical reports clearly established that she was physically assaulted in custody, thus, directed the State to pay compensation to her.
The Court observed that from the facts and circumstances, merely based on a telephonic information received from the victim’s neighbour about her involvement in a theft case, police called her to the police station even without registering a case on the complaint received from the neighbour and without verifying the facts. Further, the medical reports clearly established that she was physically assaulted during interrogation in police custody.
The Court took note of the ruling in Nilabati Behera v. State of Orissa, (1993) 2 SCC 746, wherein the Court held that “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”.
It also took note of the ruling in Mehmood Nayyar Azam v. State of Chhattisgarh, (2012) 8 SCC 1, wherein it was held that “the police officers are under obligations to protect human rights of a person in custody and prevent all forms of atrocities to him/her”. It further referred to the decision in Ashwani Kumar v. Union of India, (2020) 13 SCC 585, wherein the Court reiterated that “a person detained in custody is entitled to live with human dignity and any form of torture would violate the right to life and is prohibited under Article 21 of the Constitution“.
Placing reliance on the decision in D.K. Basu v. State of W.B., (1997) 1 SCC 416, wherein the Court laid down the directions/guidelines with respect to rights of persons arrested/detained in police custody for interrogation; the Court has observed that the victim was not formally arrested by police but, undisputedly, she was detained in police custody for a considerable period for the purpose of interrogation. Thus, she was entitled to all the safeguards provided under the guidelines issued in the case of D.K. Basu (supra), but, apparently, she was deprived of those safeguards, and she was tortured and maltreated in police custody.
The Court viewed that the victim is entitled to monetary compensation for the wrongs done to her, thus, directed the State to pay a sum of Rs. 2,50,000/- to her.
[Court on its own motion v. State of Tripura, 2022 SCC OnLine Tri 635, decided on 21.09.2022]
Advocates who appeared in this case:
For Petitioner: Amicus Curiae A. Debbarma
For Respondent: Government Advocate D. Bhattacharya,
Advocate S. Saha