1. Petitioner, a registered Non-Government Organization established to provide legal support to the poor and disadvantaged sections of the society, has filed this petition under Article 226 of Constitution of India as Public Interest Litigation to highlight one of the worst kinds of crimes in a civilized society governed by Rule of Law, i.e., death of one "Ramkumar Dhruv", a 26 years old tribal as a result of custodial violence in Police Station Suhela, District Raipur (C.G.) on 12-8-2004.
2. The tale of dehumanizing torture, assault and death of Ramkumar Dhruv due to custodial violence, as unfolded by the petition and the documents filed therewith is as under:
Ramkumar Dhruv, Gond by caste and a member of the Scheduled Tribe, was the resident of Village Bhalesur, Tehsil Simga, Police Station Suhela, District Raipur. Belonging to a family falling below the poverty line and being landless, his main occupation was agricultural labour. He was married to Jethia Bai and had three minor children; Vikas, aged 5 years, Vishal, aged 3 years and Ku. Nisha, aged 9 months. On 18-7-2004, upon allegations of theft of diesel, some packets of Beedi and cigarettes and some eatables worth Rs. 972/-, Ramkumar was called at P.S. Suhela for interrogation on 19-7-2004 and after interrogation was allowed to go on 20-7-2004, as mentioned in Roznamchasana dated 19-7-2004 and 20-7-2004. However, Ramkumar was not seen by his family members, i.e., his father Jagatu, brother Ramkhilawan and wife Jethia till 9th of August, 2004. It appears that Ramkumar was called at the Police Station Suhela between 9-8-2004 and 10-8-2004 and was subjected to dehumanizing torture and was mercilessly beaten by the Police inside the Police Station, Suhela on 11-8-2004. Arrest of Ramkumar was not shown in he police records. On 11 -8-2004 Ramkumar was taken by Assistant Sub-Inspector Subhash Kumar Pradhan under handcuffs to Village Bhalesur, Sunderawan and Kathia. Ram Ratan Sahu, Karan Singh and Jethia Bai saw that Ramkumar had injuries and swelling all over the body and was not able to walk. A.S.I. Subhash Kumar Pradhan told the villagers that despite being severely beaten by him, Ramkumar was not confessing the guilt. Ramkumar was detained in the lock-up of P.S. Suhela on 11-8-2004. Dead body of Ramkumar was seen hanging with a piece of blanket used as a rope, in the toilet attached to the lock-up in Police Station Suhela on the morning of 13-8-2004. Ramkumar was five feet five inches tall. The ventilator in the toilet was at a height of ten feet three inches. The width of the toilet was three feet five inches and length was eight feet ten inches. It is stated in the petition that the toilet of the lock- up is situated separately in the Police Station. Panchnama on the dead body of Ramkumar was prepared by Naib Tehsildar, Suhela (name not mentioned) on 13-8-2004. It was mentioned therein that no injuries were seen on the body of Ramkumar. On one side of the wall in the toilet, some marks resembling foot marks were seen. The dead body was brought down and examined but no injuries were seen on his entire person. The presence of lime was noticed on the back, elbow, palms, underwear and feet.
3. Dead body of Ramkumar was sent for post-mortem examination. Dr. A.P. Naik and Dr. G.S. Som conducted the post- mortem examination on 13-8-2004 and reported that there was a superficial abrasion at the back and contusion on the posterior aspect of left thigh, lower l/3rd, 13 cm x 3/4th cm. reddish in colour. Ligature mark was also noticed around the neck extending 1/2" below the right ear placed higher in neck below the chin and larynges obliquely upward, following the line of mandible and uninterrupted reaching towards mastoid process behind right ear. Tongue was slightly protruded and caught between teeth. Dr. A.P. Naik and Dr. G.S. Som opined that cause of death was asphyxia due to hanging and was suicidal. It was also mentioned that circumstantial evidence of eye-witnesses should be taken into consideration to decide the exact mode of death. One Chittaranjanlal Paikra who accompanied the police to the mortuary for the post-mortem examination on the dead body of Ramkumar swore an affidavit (Annexure P-3) that before conducting the post-mortem Dr. G.S. Som asked the police as to what kind of report is to be prepared whereon he was asked to prepare a routine type of report to show death due to hanging.
4. Death of the tribal Ramkumar Dhruv in police lock-up agitated the villagers of Bhalesur who committed "Gherao" of the Police Station on 13-8-2004. It is further alleged in the petition that the police pressurized Jethia Bai to cremate the body at the earliest while the villagers opposed saying that as per custom prevalent in their caste the dead body had to be buried. Dead body of Ramkumar Dhruv was taken under Police surveillance to Village Bhalesur. About 300 police men encircled the village. No outside villager was permitted to enter into the village. Under pressure of the police, the dead body of Ramkumar Dhruv was hurriedly buried.
5. The petitioner approached this Court with a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution on 18-8-2004. On 19-8-2004, upon a request made by Smt. Meena Shasta, learned Counsel for the petitioner, Sub-Divisional Magistrate of the area concerned was directed to make all arrangements to exhume the body of the deceased-Ramkumar and to take it to Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Medical College, Raipur for conducting post-mortem in presence and with the consent of the family members of the deceased. The Dean of the Medical College was directed to constitute a team of doctors to conduct the post-mortem in presence of one of the relatives of the deceased. The entire process of exhumation and post-mortem was ordered to be video-graphed. Upon such a direction being made, the dead body of Ramkumar Dhruv was exhumed from the burial ground at Village Bhalesur by the S.D.O. Bhatapara in presence of Jagatu, the father of the deceased. A team of 5 Doctors comprising Dr. A.P. Padaraha, Asstt. Superintendent, Dr. S.P. Garg, Assistant Professor, Department of Forensic Medicine, Dr. R.K. Singh, Professor and Head of Department of Forensic and Toxicology, Dr. Renuka Gahine, Associate Professor, Pathology and Dr. H.K. Dua, Blood Bank Officer conducted the postmortem examination.
6. The shocking revelations made by the post-mortem examination conducted at 2.45 P.M. on 20-8-2004 are echoed in the report dated 20-8-2004. As many as 17 injuries, as mentioned hereunder were noticed on the body of Ramkumar:
(i) Ecchymosis red in colour on right knee region anteriorly in 0.3 cm. diameter area in subcutaneous below.
(ii) Ecchymosis in blackish greyish in colour on lower 1/3rd of right leg region anteriorly in vertical 8x2 cm area in the muscles and subcutaneous tissues.
(iii) Ecchymosis in right foot lower part just below medial malleolous in 2 cms diameter area bluish greyish in colour.
(iv) Ecchymosis bluish greyish in colour was present in muscles and subcutaneous tissues in the sole proximal par right foot in 3 cm diameter area.
(v) Ecchymosis bluish greyish in colour was present on right great toe and 2nd and 3rd right toe area.
(vi) Ecchymosis blackish grey in colour on the left foot at sole middle 1/3rd part in medial 1/3rd plane in 3.5 x 1.5 cm size.
(vii) Ecchymosis blackish grey in colour on left lower leg lower part just above heel, oblique vertical 3.5 x 0.5 cm. size.
(viii) Ecchymosis blackish greyish in colour on left buttock nearly at middle part transverse 5 x 0.5 cm. size in superficial layer of muscles and subcutaneous tissues.
(ix) Ecchymosis red in colour on left thigh back in middle l/3rd area vertical 8 x 4.5 cm. area in subcutaneous tissues and muscles.
(x) Ecchymosis on left side back 08 cm. below posterior axillary fold area in 10 x 3.5 cm. vertical area in subcutaneous tissues and muscles blackish grayish colour.
(xi) Ecchymosis red in colour on right suprascapular region transverse 6.5 x 4 cm. area in subcutaneous tissues and muscles superficially.
(xii) Ecchymosis blackish grey in colour on right shoulder at its lateral end in 2.5 cm. diameter area.
(xiii) Ecchymosis blackish grey in colour on right buttock upper medial quadrant area in 7 x 3.5 cm. area transversely directed in subcutaneous tissues and superficially in muscles layer.
(xiv) Ecchymosis in the inner layer of skin and superficial layer of subcutaneous tissues in the left ear posterior part and left mastoid region, reddish brown in colour in vertical 4x2 cm. area.
(xv) Blackish greyish discolouration present on left palm medial border vertical area- Ecchymosis in 7.5 x 4 cm. area superficially.
(xvi) Blackish greyish discolouration was present on right palm against thenar eminence plane oblique transverse 6x3 cm. area superficial ecchymosis.
(xvii) Ribs show black and greyish discolouration in practically all ribs right side and also in lower ribs left side but no ecchymosis seen in the sole tissues. Ribs are intact and healthy.
It was clearly noticed that there was no ligature mark or any other sign of injury present in the area of neck. It was opined that the injuries mentioned above were ante-mortem blunt injuries caused by hard and blunt object which were not sufficient to cause death in the ordinary course of nature. The team of Doctors did not give any specific cause of death and left it open to be finally ascertained in consideration of the first autopsy report and chemical analysis of viscera. The entire autopsy was video-graphed.
7. The petitioner alleged that Ramkumar died due to dehumanizing torture and assault by the Police Officials of P.S. Suhela while being in their custody at Police Station, Suhela. It raised a few questions as a pointer to death of Ramkumar, as a result of severe custodial violence in the police lock-up at Police Station, Suhela and negating suicide by hanging:
(A) If Ramkumar was detained in the police lock-up, it was impossible for him to have prepared the long piece of blanket for being used as a rope for committing suicide without being noticed by the Police Officials on duty.
(B) The toilet of the lock-up at Police Station Suhela is situated separately and Ramkumar could not have gone to the toilet without begin permitted by the Police Officials on duty.
(C) Considering the fact that Ramkumar had as many as 17 injuries and swelling all over his body and also the fact that when he was paraded at Village Bhalesur, Sunderavan and Kathia in such a condition, it was noticed by the villagers that he had severe injuries all over his body which was swollen and he was not in a position to walk, it was impossible for a half naked Ramkumar (wearing only half pant) to reach the iron of the ventilator for tying the rope for the purpose of commission of suicide. The Panchnama prepared by Naib Tehsildar on 13-8-2004 also revealed that presence of lime was found on the back, elbow, palms, underwear and feet which were the main areas of the body of Ramkumar on which injuries were found. Thus, the presence of lime was an attempt by the Police to camouflage the injuries caused on the body of Ramkumar during custodial violence.
(D) The presence of foot mark only on the left wall of the toilet coupled with the fact that the toilet was of three feet and five inch width rendered it impossible for Ramkumar to have scaled the plainwalls of the toilet to reach the iron rod for tying the blanket for committing suicide.
(E) Nothing was found inside the toilet to facilitate Ramkumar to climb upto the ventilator which was at a height of ten feet and three inches.
(F) The presence of a larger number of Police men at Village Bhalesur while the body was hurriedly buried under pressure is also indicative of the fact that death of Ramkumar was as a result of custodial violence and not due to suicide.
(G) The affidavit of Chittaranjanlal Paikra, which was also relied on during the Magisterial enquiry, clearly showed that A.S.I. Subhash Kumar Pradhan had told Dr. G.S. Som to prepare an autopsy report to make it look-like a normal case of suicidal hanging.
(H) The post-mortem report of Dr. G.S. Som and Dr. A.P. Naik was a false autopsy report indicative of their complicity with the Police Officials of Police Station Suhela in hushing up the fact of death of Ramkumar due to custodial violence.
(I) The absence of ligature marks on the neck clearly ruled out death of Ramkumar due to hanging.
(J) The Magisterial Enquiry report filed by the respondents left no room for any doubt that Assistant Sub-Inspector Sub-hash Kumar Pradhan, Constable Mahesh Kumar Verma No. 417, Constable Rohit Kumar Verma No. 243 and Head Constable Punauram Daharia No. 1337 were mainly responsible for the custodial death of Ramkumar due to merciless beating of Ramkumar while in Policy custody.
8. The petitioners has sought the following reliefs:
(i) That the Hon'ble Court be pleased to get the entire matter investigated by the CBI.
(ii) That the Hon'ble Court be further pleased to direct the respondent No. 1 to pay Rs. 25,00,000/- to the dependents of the deceased as compensation.
(iii) That the Hon'ble Court be pleased to direct the respondent No. 1 to punish the liable Police personnel and Doctors who gave a false autopsy report under pressure.
(iv) That the Hon'ble Court be further pleased to direct the respondent No. 1 to check the worst crime of civilized society known as 'custodial-violence' immediately and to protect the life of its citizens.
(v) That the Hon'ble Court be pleased to direct the respondent No. 1 to provide immediate relief to the persons belonging to SC and ST.
(vi) Any other relief which the Hon'ble Court deems fit and proper.
In support of the petition, the petitioner has filed affidavits of Jagturam, Smt. Jethiabai and Chittaranjanlal Pakra as also newspaper cuttings.
9. The return filed by the respondent Nos. 1 to 4 shows that a Magisterial inquiry was ordered to enquire into the causes relating to the death of Ramkumar. A copy of report of Magisterial inquiry was filed as Annexure R-3 which discloses the Ramkumar was subjected to violence while in custody of the Police at Police Station, Suhela. It was admitted that Ramkumar was arrested in the night intervening between 9th and 10th August, 2004. The respondents did not deny that Ramkumar was kept in the lock-up of Police Station, Suhela. It accepted the report of Magisterial inquiry that Ramkumar had committed suicide due to dehumanizing torture and mental agony of being paraded at Villages Bhalesur. Sunderawan and Kathia under handcuffs after being severely beaten by the police while in custody at the lock-up of P.S. Suhela. It was mentioned that the State of Chhattisgarh has granted Rs. 5,00,000/- as compensation to Jethia Bai, widow of the deceased, by cheque No. 509982, dated 15-9-2004 and in addition to this she has already been granted bhoomiswami rights over 2.023 hectares land in Village Bhalesur. Sum of Rs. 25,000/- as ex gratia payment was made to the widow and father of the deceased on 16-8-2004. It was also mentioned that the report of Magisterial enquiry was accepted in toto by the State Government and criminal case for offences punishable under Sections 306, 330, 343 read with Section 34 and Section 201 of the IPC and Section 3(2)(v) of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 have been registered against Dr. A.P. Naik and G.S. Som who conducted the first autopsy and Assistant Sub-Inspector Subhash Kumar Pradhan, Head Constable Punauram Daharia, Constables Mahesh Kumar Verma and Rohit Verma. The 4 Police Officials mentioned above were arrested and remanded to the judicial custody on 10-9-2004. The State was thus viewing the matter in all its seriousness and with fair intentions to compensate the family members of the victims and to take steps to ensure that such incidents do not occur again. It was mentioned that the compensation claimed by the petitioner was on a very higher side and since adequate compensation both in cash and kind had been given, no further relief was called for. On these grounds, it was prayed that the petition was liable to be dismissed with costs.
10. The report of Shri Shyam Dhava, Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Bhatapara, dated 8-9-2004 was also placed on record as Annexure R-3 by the respondents which revealed that Magisterial enquiry was ordered by the Collector, Raipur vide Order No. K/S/W/2004 Raipur, dated 13-8-2004 in Crime No. 87/2004 registered at P.S. Suhela and the suicide committed by Ramkumar. It shows that on the allegation of theft of diesel, Beedi and cigarettes and some eatables worth Rs. 972/-, Ramkumar was detained at Police Station, Suhela by Asstt. Sub-Inspector Subhash Kumar Pradhan in the intervening period between the night of 8th and 9th of August and 11th August, 2004 and was mercilessly beaten by the Police Official of P.S. Suhela. Ramkumar was handcuffed and taken to Villages Bhalesur, Sunderawan and Kathia on 11-8-2004. Asstt. Sub-Inspector Subhash Kumar Pradhan told the villagers that despite being beaten by him Ramkumar was not confessing his guilt. The villagers had noticed that Ramkumar had injuries all over his swollen body and was not able to walk. Enquiry report stated that in collusion with the Police Officials of P.S. Suhela Dr. A.P. Naik and Dr. G.S. Som prepared a false autopsy report not mentioning the injuries on the person of Ramkumar to make it look-like a routine case of suicide by hanging. The post-mortem, dated 20-8-2004 by the team of Doctors constituted under orders of this Court found that the deceased Ramkumar had 17 injuries on his person which revealed that he was mercilessly beaten and tortured at the police lock-up at Police Station, Suhela by Assistant Sub-Inspector Subhash Kumar Pradhan, Constables Mahesh Kumar Verma No. 417, Rohit Kumar Verma 423 and Head Constable Punaura Daharia No. 1337. It was also reported that Sub-Inspector Smt. Usha Sondhia and Station House Officer Police Station Suhela J.P. Mishra were also indirectly responsible since they did not inform the higher officials about the illegal detention and custodial violence on Ramkumar by the Police Officials at P.S. Suhela. Constable Mahesh Kumar No. 417 and Constable Shankar Verma No. 1101 were also held to be negligent in their duties since despite being on duty the suicide by Ramkumar inside the toilet went unnoticed by them. It was reported that Ramkumar could not bear the humiliation and torture of being paraded under handcuffs by A.S.I. Subhash Kumar Pradhan and other Police Staff, before the villagers and his family, after having been mercilessly beaten by the Police Officials while in their custody and due to the insult, humiliation and torture, committed suicide by hanging inside the toilet of the lock-up at P.S. Suhela.
11. We have heard Smt. Meena Shastri, learned Counsel for the petitioner and Shri Pramod Verma, Addl. Advocate General at length. Having perused the material placed on record with utmost circumspection, the following facts emerge:
(i) It has been clearly established by the Magisterial enquiry that detention of Ramkumar at the lock-up at P.S. Suhela was wholly illegal and in blatant and flagrant violation of the clear directions and guildelines of the Apex Court in D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal .
(ii) Arrest of Ramkumar was not shown in the police records although he was detained for more than 24 hours without being produced before a Magistrate by A.S.I. Subhash Kumar Pradhan.
(iii) Ramkumar was subjected to merciless beating while in custody at Police Station Suhela by A.S.I. Subhash Kumar Pradhan, Constable Mahesh Kumar Verma No. 417, Constable Rohit Kumar Verma No. 243 and Head Constable Punauram Daharia No. 1337.
(iv) On 11-8-2004 Ramkumar was paraded under handcuffs by A.S.I. Subhash Kumar Pradhan in Villages Bhalesur, Sun-derawan and Kathia.
(v) The affidavit of Chittaranjanlal Paikra clearly reveals that Dr. A.P. Naik and Dr. G.S. Som in collusion with A.S.I. Subhash Kumar Pradhan prepared a false autopsy report on 13-8-2004 concealing the injuries sustained by Ramkumar during custodial violence at P.S. Suhela.
(vi) The autopsy report dated 20-8-2004 conducted by the team of Doctors on the dead body of Ramkumar leaves no room for any doubt that Ramkumar met with most dehumanizing torture and assault while being in custody at P.S. Suhela in the intervening period between the night of 8th or 9th August and 11th of August, 2004.
12. "Custodial torture" is naked violation of human dignity and degradation, which destroys, to a very large extent, the individual personality. It is a calculated assault on human dignity and whenever human dignity is wounded, civilization takes a step backward. In all custodial crimes what is of real concern is not only infliction of bodily pain but also the mental agony, which a person undergoes within the four walls of police station or lock-up. Whether it is physical assault or rape in police custody, the extent of trauma, a person experiences is beyond the purview of law. In spite of the Constitutional and statutory provisions aimed at safeguarding the personal liberty and life of a citizen, growing incidents of torture and deaths in police custody has been a disturbing factor. Experience shows that worst violations of human rights take place during the course of investigation, when the police with a view to secure evidence or confession often resorts to third degree methods including torture and adopts techniques of screening arrest by either not recording the arrest or describing the deprivation of liberty merely as a prolonged interrogation. The increasing incidence of torture and death in custody has assumed such alarming proportions that it is affecting the credibility of the Rule of Law and the administration of criminal justice system. The community rightly feels perturbed. Society's cry for justice becomes louder.
13. In D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal (supra), it was observed by the Apex Court:
Custodial death is perhaps one of the worst crimes in a civilized society governed by the Rules of Law. The rights inherent in Articles 21 and 22(1) of the Constitution require to be jealously and scrupulously protected. Court cannot wish away the problem. Any form of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment would fall within the inhibition of Article 21 of the Constitution, whether it occurs during investigation, interrogation or otherwise. If the functionaries of the Government became lawbreakers, it is bound to breed contempt for law and would encourage lawlessness and every man would have the tendency to become law unto himself thereby leading to anarchanism. No civilized nation can permit that to happen. Does a citizen shed off his fundamental right to life, the moment a policeman arrest him ? Can the right to life of a citizen be put in abeyance on his arrest ? These questions touch the spinal cord of human rights jurisprudence. The answer, indeed, has to be an emphatic "No". The precious right guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution of India cannot be denied to convicts, under trial, detenue and other prisoners in custody, except according to the procedure established by law by placing such reasonable restrictions as are permitted by law.
The Supreme Court had issued the following directions in D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal, (supra):
(1) The police personnel carrying out the arrest and handling the interrogation of the arrestee should bear accurate, visible and clear identification and name tags with their designation. The particulars of all such police personnel who handle interrogation of the arrestee must be recorded in a register.
(2) That the police officer carrying out the arrest of the arrestee shall prepare a memo of arrest at the time of arrest and such memo shall be attested by at least one witness. Who may be either a member of the family of the arrestee or a respectable person of the locality from where the arrest is made. It shall also be counter signed by the arrestee and shall contain the time and date of arrest.
(3) A person who has been arrested or detained and is being held in custody in a police station or interrogation centre or other lock-up, shall be entitled to have one friend or relative or other person known to him or having interest in his welfare being informed, as soon as practicable, that he has been arrested and is being detained at the particular place, unless the attesting witness of the memo of arrest is himself such a friend or relative of the arrestee.
(4) The time, place of arrest and venue of custody of an arrestee must be notified by the police where the next friend or relative of the arrestee lives outside the district or town through the Legal Aid Organisation in the District and the police station of the area concerned telegraphically within a period of 8 to 12 hours after the arrest.
(5) The person arrested must be made aware of this right to have someone informed of his arrest or detention as soon as he is put under arrest or is detained.
(6) An entry must be made in the diary at the place of detention regarding the arrest of the person which shall also disclose the name of the next friend of the person who has been informed of the arrest and the names and particulars of the police officials in whose custody the arrestee is.
(7) The arrestee should, where he so requests, be also examined at the time of his arrest and major and minor injuries, if any present on his/her body, must be recorded at that time. The "Inspection Memo" must be signed both by the arrestee and the police officer affecting the arrest and its copy provided to the arrestee.
(8) The arrestee should be subjected to medical examination by a trained doctor every 48 hours during his detention in custody by a doctor on the panel of approved doctors appointed by Director, Health Services of the concerned State of Union Territory Director, Health Services should prepare such a panel for all Tehsils and Districts as well.
(9) Copies of all the documents including the memo of arrest, referred to above, should be sent to the illaqa Magistrate for his record.
(10) The arrestee may be permitted to meet his lawyer during interrogation, though not throughout the interrogation.
(11) A police central room should be provided at all Districts and State Headquarters, where information regarding the arrest and the place of custody of the arrestee shall be communicated by the officer causing the arrest, within 12 hours of effect the arrest and at the police central room it should be displaced on a conspicuous notice board.
14. Having considered the report of the Magisterial enquiry and the documents on record there does not remain an iota of doubt that the directions issued by the Apex Court in D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal, were flagrantly violated by the police officials at P.S. Suhela.
15. The Naib Tehsildar who prepared the Panchnama on the dead body of Ramkumar found hanging in the toilet of Police Station Suhela clearly mentioned that lime was found on the back, elbow, palms, underwear and feet of Ramkumar. It needs to be thoroughly investigated as it cannot be ruled out that the police in order to conceal the injury marks on the body of Ramkumar had pasted lime on it.
16. Ramkumar Dhruv had been summoned at the Police Station Suhela on 18-7-2004. It needs to be thoroughly investigated as to when Ramkumar was released from detention and where did he go because there are newspaper reports which show that Ramkumar had escaped from Police custody on the night of 8th of August, 2004 (Dainik Bhaskar, dated 14th August, Annexure P-4). This could be the reason which annoyed A.S.I. Subhash Kumar Pradhan to such an extent that on the intervening night of 9th and 10th August, Ramkumar was apprehended and brought to Police Station Suhela and was mercilessly beaten while under detention. It also appears that after being called at the Police Station on 18-7-2004, Ramkumar was first seen at Village Bhalesur on 9-8-2004. It could be that Ramkumar had escaped from Police custody on the night of 8th August, 2004 and was thereafter brought to P.S. Suhela on the night of 9th August, 2004.
17. The respondents have admitted in their return at sub- para of Paragraph 11 that about 25 police personnel were present at the time of burial of the dead body of Ramkumar at the graveyard in Village Bhalesur. In the petition, it has been alleged that as many as 300 Policemen had encircled the village and no outsider was permitted to enter the village till the dead body of Ramkumar Dhruv was buried. It needs to be thoroughly investigated whether Jagtu and villagers were pressurized by the police to cremate the dead body and on their refusal were pressurized to conduct the burial of Ramkumar under police surveillance in order to quickly make the evidence relating to cause of death of Ramkumar disappear. The Naib Tehsildar who conducted the Panchnama, the Additional District Magistrate who is alleged to have accompanied the police personnel and the police officials (their exact number and details also need to be thoroughly investigated and ascertained) also needs to be brought within the scope of investigation to be conducted.
18. The absence of any ligature mark on the neck of Ramkumar, in our considered opinion, clearly rules out the possibility of suicide by him. This fact also needs to be thoroughly investigated. Considering the nature of injuries sustained by Ramkumar and his physical condition at the time when he was paraded in the three villages (Bhalesur, Sunderawan and Kathia) clearly shows that he could not have jumped to such a height to reach the rod in the ventilator and tied a piece of blanket as a rope for committing suicide. The absence of foot marks on both the corresponding opposite walls in the width of the toilet is also indicative of the fact that Ramkumar could not have climbed up to the ventilator without any support. The autopsy report by the team of Doctors conducted on 20-8-2004 clearly shows that autopsy report of Dr. G.S. Sorn and Dr. A.P. Naik showing presence of ligature mark was totally false and concocted.
19. The report of Magisterial enquiry also does not show the exact location of the toilet. It needs to be thoroughly investigated whether the toilet at P.S. Suhela was situated inside the lock-up or outside because if it was situated outside the lock-up at Police Station Suhela, Ramkumar could not have, of his own, gone to the toilet without being noticed by Constable Mahesh Verma No. 417 and Shanker Verma No. 1101 who were on duty at night on 12-8-2004 at Police Station Suhela.
20. It cannot be believed that the Constables as also other police personnel present at the Police Station were sleeping when Ramkumar prepared a sort of rope from the blanket given to him. It needs to be thoroughly investigated because no scissor, blade or any sharp object was available with Ramkumar so as to facilitate preparation of a rope from the blanket.
21. The record shows that a complaint was made that at the behest of Jageshwar Prasad Verma, Jodhan Patel and Sanat Kumar Naik, the Police at Police Station Suhela had falsely implicated Ramkumar Dhruv in the case of theft of diesel which also needs to be investigated thoroughly.
22. The above mentioned factors do not exclude the hypothesis that Ramkumar Dhruv died while being in police custody at Police Station Suhela due to brutal and merciless beating and torture by A.S.I. Subhash Kumar Pradhan, Constables Mahesh Kumar Verma No. 417, Rohit Verma No. 243 and Head Constable Punauram Daharia No. 1337.
23. In cases of custodial death or police torture within the precinct of the Police Station, concerned police are expected to explain the circumstances in which a person in their custody had died or sustained grievous injuries, as the case may be. In this regard, what the Apex Court in Munshi Singh Gautam (Dead) and Ors. v. State of M.R , has observed is apt to be noted. In Paras 6 and 7 of the Judgment, the Apex Court observed thus:
6. Rarely in cases of police torture or custodial death, direct ocular evidence is available of the complicity of the police personnel, who alone can only explain the circumstances in which a person in their custody had died. Bound as they are by the ties of brotherhood, it is not unknown that police personnel prefer to remain silent and more often than not even pervert the truth to save their colleagues- and the present case is an apt illustration- as to how one after the other police witnesses feigned ignorance about the whole matter.
7. The exaggerated adherence to and insistence upon the establishment of proof beyond every reasonable doubt by the prosecution, at times even when the prosecuting agencies are themselves fixed in the dock, ignoring the ground realities, the fact situation and the peculiar circumstances of a given case, as in the present case, often results in miscarriage of justice and makes the justice-delivery system suspect and vulnerable. In the ultimate analysis society suffers and a criminal gets encouraged. Tortures in police custody, which of late are on the increase, receive encouragement by this type of an unrealistic approach at times of the Courts as well, because it reinforces the belief in the mind of the police that no harm would come to them if one prisoner dies in the lock-up because there would hardly be any evidence available to the prosecution to directly implicate them in the torture. The Courts must not lose sight of the fact that death in police custody is perhaps one of the worst kinds of crime in a civilized society governed by the rule of law and poses a serious threat to an orderly civilized society. Torture in custody flouts the basic rights of the citizens recognized by the Indian Constitution and is an affront to human dignity. Police excesses and the maltreatment of detainees/undertrial prisoners or suspects tarnishes the image of any civilized nation and encourages the men in "khaki" to consider themselves to be above the law and sometimes even to become a law unto themselves. Unless stern measures are taken to check the malady of the very fence eating the crop, the foundations of the criminal justice-delivery system would be shaken and civilization itself would risk the consequence of heading towards total decay resulting in anarchy and authoritarianism reminiscent of barbarism. The Courts must, therefore, deal with such cases in a realistic manner and with the sensitivity which they deserve, otherwise the common man may tend to gradually lose faith in the efficacy of the system of the judicial itself, which if it happens, will be a sad day, for anyone to reckon with.
24. The absence of ligature marks, the impossibility of his climbing upto the rod of the ventilator without any support and also in view of the severe injuries on his person and the fact that lime was pasted on his body on all such parts where the injuries were mostly inflicted and the false autopsy report dated 13-8-2004 prepared by Dr. A.P. Naik and Dr. G.S. Som at the behest of Asstt. Sub-Inspector Subhash Kumar Pradhan create a serious doubt in our mind that death of Ramkumar Dhruv was as a result of custodial violence and merciless beating by the aforesaid Police Officials and not due to hanging.
25. We do not appreciate the stand taken by the respondents in this case with regard to payment of compensation to the dependants of the deceased. It appears to us that by paying a meager sum of Rs. 5,00,000/- and offering some land to the widow of the deceased, a curtain has been attempted to be drawn to cover up the very grave and apparent human right violations committed by the very custodians of human persons and their liberties. If we may say so, the story of suicide by Ramkumar Dhruv by hanging himself in the toilet enacted by the police appears to us to be a concocted story and a desperate attempt to avoid responsibility for the acts committed by A.S.I. Subhash Kumar Pradhan and 4 other officials while Ramkumar was in police custody. There can be no doubt that the respondents have not investigated the cause of death of Ramkumar as they ought to have done or that, at any rate, they have not placed all relevant materials before this Court. The respondents have not shown whether any departmental action has been initiated against the two Doctors, namely, Dr. A.P. Naik and Dr. G.S. Som and Station House Officer Jagdish Prasad Mishra Sub-Inspector Smt. Usha Sondhia, Asstt. Sub-Inspector Subhash Kumar Pradhan, Constables Mahesh Kumar Verma No. 417, Rohit Verma No. 243 and Head Constable Punauram Daharia No. 1337. If a departmental action has been initiated against the aforesaid persons, the result thereof has not been mentioned in the reply filed by the respondents. It appears that they have attempted to pull the wool over the eyes of this Court. We strongly disapprove and condemn the brutalities committed by the police concerned on the person of Ramkumar Dhruv while he was in police custody at P.S. Suhela. In the facts and circumstances mentioned above, we deem it appropriate to order that the cause of death of Ramkumar Dhruv should be thoroughly investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation.
26. It is well settled by a catena of decision of the Supreme Court in Sebastian M. Hongray v. Union of India ; Bhim Singh v. State of J and K ; Peoples' Union for Democratic Rights v. Police Commr. ; State of Maharashtra v. Ravikant S. Patil ; Peoples' Union for Democratic Rights v. State of Bihar ; Saheli, A women's Resources Centre v. Commr. of Police ; Arvinder Singh Bagga v. State of UP. ; P. Rathinam v. Union of India 1989 Supp (2) SCC 716 : 1991 SCC (Cri.) 228; Death of Sawinder Singh Grover In re: 1995 Supp (4) SCC 450 : 1994 SCC (Cri.) 1464; Inder Singh v. State of Punjab ; Chairman, Rly. Board v. Chandrima Das ; Ajab Singh and Anr. v. State of UP. and Ors., to cite a few, that a claim in public law for compensation for contravention of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the protection of which is guaranteed in the Constitution, is an acknowledged remedy for enforcement and protection of such rights. Such a Constitutional remedy provided for the enforcement of a fundamental right is 'distinct from, and in addition to, the remedy in private law for damages for the tort' resulting from the contravention of the fundamental right. Justice AS. Anand (as His Lordship then was) in concurring opinion in Nilabati Behera v. State of Orissa , while pointing out how public law proceedings serve a different purpose than the private law proceedings in the matter of awarding monetary compensation in proceedings under Article 32 by the Supreme Court or under Article 226 by the High Courts, was pleased to observe thus:
34. The public law proceedings serve a different purpose than the private law proceedings. The relief of monetary compensation, as exemplary damages, in proceedings under Article 32 by this Court or under Article 226 by the High Courts, for established infringement of the indefeasible right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution is a remedy available in public law and is based the strict liability for contravention of the guaranteed basic and indefeasible rights of the citizen. The purpose of public law is not only to civilize public power but also to assure the citizen that they live under a legal system which aims to protect their interests and preserve their rights. Therefore, when the Court moulds the relief by granting 'compensation' in proceedings under Article 32 or 226 of the Constitution seeking enforcement or protection of fundamental rights, it does so under the public law by way of penalizing the wrongdoer and fixing the liability for the public wrong on the State which has failed in its public duty to protect the fundamental rights of the citizen. The payment of compensation in such cases is not to be understood, as it is generally understood in a civil action for damages under the private law but in the broader sense of providing relief by an order of making 'monetary amends' under the public law for the wrong done due to breach of public duty, of not protecting the fundamental rights of the citizen. The compensation is in the nature of 'exemplary damages' awarded against the wrongdoer for the breach of its public law duty and is independent of the rights available to the aggrieved party to claim compensation under the private law in an action based on tort, through a suit instituted in a Court of competent jurisdiction or/and prosecute the offender under the penal law.
35. This Court and the High Courts, being the protectors of the civil liberties of the citizen, have not only the power and jurisdiction but also an obligation to grant relief in exercise of its jurisdiction under Article s 32 and 226 of the Constitution to the victim or the heir of the victim whose fundamental rights under Article 21 of the Constitution of India are established to have been flagrantly infringed by calling upon the State to repair the damage done by its officers to the fundamental rights of the citizen, notwithstanding the right of the citizen to the remedy by way of a civil suit or criminal proceedings. The State, of course has the right to be indemnified by and take such action as may be available to it against the wrongdoer in accordance with law--through appropriate proceedings. Of course, relief in exercise of the power under Article 32 or 226 would be granted only once it is established that there has been an infringement of the fundamental rights of the citizen and no other form of appropriate redressal by the Court in the facts and circumstances of the case, is possible....It is a sound policy to punish the wrongdoer and it is in that spirit that the Courts have moulded the relief by granting compensation to the victims in exercise of their writ jurisdiction. In going so the Courts take into account not only the interest of the applicant and the respondent but also the interests of the public as a whole with a view to ensure that public bodies or officials do not act unlawfully and do perform their public duties properly particularly where the fundamental right of a citizen under Article 21 is concerned.
27. Keeping in mind the settled position in law noted above and having regard to prima facie established facts and the painful circumstances in which the deceased Ramkumar Dhruv left behind the young widow and three minor children, we are of the considered opinion that the State of Chhattisgarh is under a public law obligation to adequately compensate the widow and minor children of the deceased. We are of the considered opinion that, in the facts and circumstances of the case, the widow and the three minor children together are entitled to a compensation which cannot be less than Rs. 10,00,000/- (Rupees ten lakhs).
28. We, therefore, direct as follows:
(a) The Registry shall forward a copy of the order to the Director, Central Bureau of Investigation.
(b) The CBI shall register a case and conduct an investigation into the circumstances which led to death of Ramkumar Dhruv. The CBI shall forthwith appoint an Officer to receive from the respondents all records relating to Ramkumar Dhruv's detention in police custody at Police Station Suhela, burial of his dead body at Bhalesur, the video-graphs relating to exhumation and post-mortem conducted on 20-8-2004 and also the video, if taken on 13-8-2004 by the team of Doctors, as clearly directed by Executive Magistrate, Suhela. The CBI shall also thoroughly investigate by reconstructing the scene of offence whether a person of the height of Ramkumar Dhruv who had sustained severe injuries and swelling all over the body and could not walk, could without any support climb the wall and reach the iron rod in the ventilator so as to tie a knot for committing suicide by hanging. The CBI would thoroughly investigate whether death of Ramkumar Dhruv was suicidal or homicidal. The investigation shall be completed as expeditiously as possible, at any rate, within six months from the date of receipt of the order and a copy of the report of investigation conducted by CBI shall be filed in this Court.
(c) We direct the State of Chhattisgarh to pay to the widow of the deceased and their three minor children compensation of Rs. 10,00,000/- (Rupees ten lakhs only) within a month. The sum already paid shall be adjusted. Sum of Rs. 5,00,000/- (Rupees five lakhs only) shall be invested in a term deposit in a postal savings account which could earn maximum interest/return for a period till all the three minors attain majority. Jethia Bai is entitled to the remaining sum of Rs. 5,00,000/-. Jethia Bai is also entitled to withdraw the interests accrued on the principal of Rs. 5,00,000/- once in every six months to spend on the living and education of the minors. After the minors attain majority, sum of Rs. 5,00,000/- shall be distributed among the three children equally. This direction shall be without prejudice to the rights of legal representatives of Ramkumar Dhruv to get compensation in private law proceedings, if so entitled in law, against those found responsible for his death.
(d) The State Government shall ensure that departmental enquiry, if not already initiated against the Station House Officer, Jagdish Prasad Mishra, Sub-Inspector Smt. Usha Sondhia, Asstt. Sub-Inspector Subhash Kumar Pradhan, Constables Mahesh Kumar Verma No. 417 & Rohit Verma No. 243 and Head Constable Punauram Daharia No. 1337, is initiated and concluded within a period of one year from today. The result of the departmental enquiry shall be informed to this Court.
(e) A departmental enquiry, if not already initiated, shall be initiated against Dr. A.P. Naik and Dr. G.S. Som for preparing a false autopsy report dated 13-8-2004 at the behest of A.S.I. Subhash Kumar Pradhan relating to the cause of death of Ramkumar Dhruv if they are still in service and concluded within a period of one year from today. The result of the departmental enquiry shall be informed to this Court.
(f) A copy of the Video prepared at the autopsy dated 13-8-2004, if any, and the video prepared at the exhumation and autopsy dated 20-8-2004 shall be sent to National Human Rights Commission, as required by the letter dated 27th March, 1997 by Hon'ble Shri Justice M.N. Venkatachaliah (Former Chief Justice of India), Chairman, National Human Rights Commission.
(g) The State Government shall ensure rigid adherence to the guidelines issued by the Apex Court in D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal (supra), in all Police Stations and outposts of the State.
(h) The registry shall forward a copy of this order to the Chairman, National Human Rights Commission, New Delhi.
(i) List this case for further monitoring in the 1st week of February, 2007.