Govt consensual party in custodial deaths, says HC

Govt consensual party in custodial deaths, says HC

The Bombay High Court on Tuesday came down heavily on the state government
for its failure to curb custodial deaths and remarked that the government
seems to be a consensual party to such incidents as it has failed to take
any steps to reduce them.

A division bench of justices VM Kanade and Dr Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi was
hearing a bunch of petitions, including a public interest litigation, on
the increasing number of custodial death cases. “When we heard the matter
for the first time we said the government should take steps to put an end
to this. But it is still happening. In fact, incidents of custodial deaths
have increased. What can the judiciary do when the executive is so
insensitive,” the bench observed.

On the last hearing of the petitions the court had observed, “We hope that
now the state will wake up and take appropriate action at the senior level
to prevent custodial deaths, after it was informed that from 1999 to 2014,
a total of 243 custodial deaths have taken place in Maharashtra but there
has not been a single conviction.

The bench expressed displeasure on the state government’s failure to comply
with its earlier order passed in January this year directing it to initiate
steps to install CCTVs in all police stations. It said: “Despite such
deaths, the entire machinery is insensitive and turning a blind eye as
though it is not happening. The state seems to be a consensual party. We
are appalled by the government’s insensitivity and lack of political will
to address this problem. The government does not seem to be bothered and
are silent towards this menace of custodial deaths.”

The court has now sought suggestions from petitioners’ advocates Yug
Choudhary and Mihir Desai on how to tackle the issue and posted the
petitions for hearing on October 21.

While hearing a petition filed by one Agnelo Valdaris whose son Leonard
allegedly died while in custody of the Wadala railway police station in
2014 and the probe is being done by the Central Bureau of Investigations,
the court asked the premier agency to give details about whether it suffers
from shortage of staff.

CBI counsel Rebecca Gonsalves informed the court that there are only nine
officers in the special crime branch for entire western region.

The court said: “The CBI in every case says it is overburdened. What was
the strength of CBI in 1963 when it was set up and what is the strength
now? Has the CBI (Western region) ever made a demand to the Centre for more
personnel and better infrastructure? If such a demand was made was it
considered? We would like to know this.”

*Published Date:*  Oct 14, 2015

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