The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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HC orders lockup death damages

Calcutta, July 4: Calcutta High Court today asked the government to pay Rs 1 lakh each to the families of two undertrial prisoners who died of suffocation at the Malda court lock up last year.

The high court directive follows the Supreme Court ruling asking states to pay a compensation of not less than Rs 1 lakh in case of custodial deaths.

A division bench presided over by Chief Justice A.K. Mathur directed the state to hand over the amount to the widows of the victims within two months. The court, however, was satisfied with the steps taken by the government to improve conditions in the Malda court lockup.

The mishap on August 1, last year, occurred after a large number of undertrials were brought to court by police from custody and crammed into the room without water or sanitation.

At least eight persons fell ill due to suffocation inside the lockup meant for male prisoners. All of them were rushed to Malda hospital. Anish Das was pronounced dead by the hospital authorities. Another undertrial, Nemai Ghosh, died in the hospital. The others were released after treatment.

The police had picked up Das and Ghosh for petty offences.

The West Bengal Legal Aid Services, advocate Subroto Mookherjee and the Malda Court Bar Association filed three separate public interest litigations in the high court, demanding a judicial inquiry and seeking an order directing the state to pay damages.

The chief justice had sought a snap report from the Malda district judge and sent a judge from the high court for an on-the-spot inquiry. After receiving the reports, he wanted to know from the state what steps had been taken to improve the condition of the lockup.

A week ago, the state furnished a report. The inner wall of the two lockups for male undertrials were demolished and lights and fans had been fitted, it said. Last year, the undertrials were not provided water even when they were pleading for it and collapsing. Drinking water has now been made available there.

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