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Mukul promises help in custody death case

Tura, May 26: Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma has assured several NGOs pressing for a judicial probe into Balsan Marak’s custodial death that he would give the matter priority.

He has asked the NGOs to exercise restraint and not resort to any action that will disturb the peace and harmony in the region.

Balsan, an undertrial prisoner, had died in a government hospital on May 20.

The chief minister, in his letter to the NGOs, said, “I am equally distressed at the death of late Balsan Marak at such a young age while in judicial custody. I deeply share the grief of the bereaved family and also pray for eternal peace of the departed soul.”

He assured the NGOs that the state government would look into the magisterial inquiry constituted by the deputy commissioner of West Garo Hills and initiate a probe by commissioner of division (Garo hills), Peter J. Ingty, for the sake of “greater independence” and “credibility”.

The probe will be completed within a stipulated time frame of 30 days.

“Under the circumstances, it would only be fair and appropriate to await the report. Based on the findings, the government will be prepared to take all necessary steps to redress the situation,” said Mukul. He also assured that the government would not fail to take penal action against those responsible for any lapses found during the course of the inquiry.

Several NGOs, spearheaded by the Garo Students Union and Northeast Student’s Organisation, are demanding a judicial probe into the death and psychological counselling cells at police stations.

The NGOs have demanded that those involved in the assault, which led to the death of Balsan, be immediately suspended and terminated. They also demanded departmental action and contempt of court proceedings against those who failed to follow the directives.

They have also demanded installation of CCTVs in all the rooms in police stations with recording facility, so that police personnel cannot “callously” torture inmates or prisoners. Balsan and two others were arrested on May 13 based on an FIR filed by a victim, who is pregnant, in an illegal confinement case.