Sathankulam custodial death case: Bail plea of accused S.I. Dismissed by the Madras HC, directions issued to display rights of citizens in the police station
DECISION OF THE MADRAS HIGH COURT
- The Madras High Court said on Tuesday that it is expected from any progressive and democratic nation to be sensitive to the complete elimination of custodial deaths.
- The Court was hearing a bail plea filed by one sub-inspector, S Sridhar who is one of the accused policemen in the Sathankulam case regarding deaths of father-son duo in police custody at Sathankulam in Tuticorin district.
- Justice SM Subramaniam issued directions to the Director General of Police, Mylapore in order to publish the rights of the citizens who are approaching the police station and police officials and for proper maintenance of CCTV cameras in police stations.
- The Court dismissed the bail application of S Sridhar citing the seriousness of the issue as the present case involves serious allegations of police torture which led to the death of father-son duo Jayaraj and Bennix in police custody who were arrested for violating the COVID-19 lockdown rules.
- The DGP, Mylapore was suo moto impleaded in the present case.
OBSERVATIONS OF THE COURT
- The Court observed, "Custodial deaths are not only inhumane but also against the democratic principles. Our great nation is marching towards democracy and the fostered developments can be achieved only if a civilised society is created”.
- Justice Subramaniam while observing the need to act firmly against custodial torture and consequent deaths said in his order, ‘‘There cannot be any second opinion, as the custodial death are to be wiped out completely and, if any complaints are received, investigation are to be conducted in a speedy manner and stringent actions are to be initiated both at departmental level and by prosecuting authorities".
- Though it is commonly expected of the police officers that they should act as friends of the people, but in reality it is seen that, "In many areas, large number of people is still afraid even to enter into the Police Stations and people are having apprehension in their minds that such police officials may turnaround if they give a complaint and register cases against them. The fact regarding registration of false cases cannot be denied by the Police Department, in general. Many allegations of registration of false cases are brought to the notices of the Court also."
- The High Court further went on to remark, "Registering of false cases in police station are to be completely erased. Serious actions are to be initiated against such erring officials by conducting inspections and enquiry. Intelligence Wing of the police department is to be pressed into service for the purpose of tracing out the registration of false cases in Police Stations. Of course, vigilance and Anti Corruption Department should also work hand in hand with Intelligence Wing."
- · "The common man, who are all approaching the Police Stations or the Public Officers are to be treated decently and all required information must be made available to assist such persons", the Court added.
- The High Court said, "... the Police Officials are vested with powers under various statute to detain and to initiate actions. Thus, utmost caution and good temperament is highly warranted. Integrity and honesty though virtues, it is a mandate as far as the uniformed services are concerned. Treating a common man decently and fairly in Police Stations is a basic requirement..."
- The court further noted that while there are procedures regarding the process to be followed in matters pertaining to custodial deaths, "the mandate is not honoured by the authorities responsible and accountable."
WHAT ARE THE DIRECTIONS ISSUED BY THE COURT TO UPHOLD RIGHTS AND SUPERVISE THE FUNCTIONING OF POLICE OFFICIALS WITHIN THE STATE OF TAMIL NADU?
The following directions are issued by the High Court to the DGP, Mylapore to uphold the rights of citizens and monitor the police functioning in police stations. These are as follows:
- Issue of consolidated instructions/circulars in respect of the rights of the common man who is approaching the police stations as well as police personnel and the services to be offered by the police officials by treating the citizens in a fair and decent manner.
- Ensure the installation of CCTV cameras in all the police stations which shall cover the entire premises of the police stations.
- Ensure that the rights of the citizens, who are approaching police stations and police officials to register their complaints shall be displayed boldly and clearly, both in English and Tamil languages in front of the police stations within the State of Tamil Nadu.
- Ensure that the CCTV cameras installed in all the police stations across Tamil Nadu State are maintained properly. The repairs, if any must be rectified by the Station House Officer within a period of three days.
- Ensure that the storages of CCTV cameras are forwarded to the higher officials within a stipulated time period. The said storages are preserved for the period which is to be mentioned by the Director-General of Police in the consolidated instructions.
- Intimate that any violation of the guidelines provided by any officials are to be viewed seriously and appropriate disciplinary actions will be taken against them under the Discipline and Appeal Rules.
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