The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rights panel lashes govt for lock-up lapse

Calcutta, Sept 4: National Human Rights Commission chairman Justice J.C. Verma reprimanded the state government today for the death of two accused in the Malda court lock-up.

Justice Verma, on a two-day visit to the city, said the lock-up was too small to accommodate so many inmates. He said the conditions in the lock-up were dreadful as well.

“We came to know of the conditions after discussing the matter in detail with state government officials during the day,’’ he said.

Justice Verma said those responsible for the deaths should be brought to justice. The men had fallen ill in the windowless room crammed with nearly 300 people arrested on charges of petty crime. Both had been declared dead when taken to hospital on August 1.

Justice Verma today held a meeting about cases of human rights’ violation with senior officials including chief secretary S.N. Roy, home secretary A.K. Deb and the state human rights commission chairman, Justice Mukul Gopal Mukherjee.

Justice Verma said the commission had sought the post-mortem report and videotape of the dead men.

The rights body chairman said the accused held in lock-ups should not be denied the basic rights to shelter and food. The statement assumed significance since all the accused had been denied food and even water in the lock-up. Policemen on duty had sold water for Rs 40 a glass to the thirsty men lodged in the lock-up.

Justice Verma said the government should take into account the media reports on the conditions in the lock-up to help improve the situation.

He also expressed concern over the reports of police excess while searching for militants and their sympathisers.

“The state governments should strictly follow the Supreme Court’s ruling on the arrest of wanted criminals.”

Verma said the deaths should be investigated and responsibilities fixed.

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