The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Suicide blame on police
- Norms violated in interrogating Naxalite suspect, finds truth panel

Calcutta, March 7: A truth committee set up by the government to probe Avijit Sinha’s suicide has found police guilty of violating all norms during the arrest of the young customs official on charges of links with Naxalites.

Arun Mishra, a home department secretary who examined the circumstances leading to the suicide, has told the government that the state police flouted the Supreme Court’s ruling on norms to be followed during an arrest between 10 pm and 6 am.

Sinha was arrested on July 5 and committed suicide on July 9 by throwing himself before a train at Dum Dum Cantonment station, after being released from police custody in Midnapore where he had allegedly been tortured.

The truth committee’s report was submitted today by advocate-general Balai Ray to Calcutta High Court just before Justice Altamas Kabir began hearing the petition filed by Sinha’s widow, Manasi, demanding a CBI inquiry into her husband’s death.

After Ray submitted the report, the petitioner’s counsel Alok Mitra rose to ask why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against the government which, according to the truth committee’s findings, had violated 11 norms laid down by the apex court.

The court should also order an independent agency, like the CBI, to determine the cause behind Sinha’s death, Mitra argued. On behalf of the petitioner, he demanded a copy of the truth committee report.

The police were on the mat, with government lawyers admitting that Sinha had been arrested in violation of the specific Supreme Court ruling that no one can be picked up, even for interrogation, at night.

The truth committee has pointed out that contrary to the apex court’s ruling, Avijit Sinha was not allowed to exercise his right to choose someone to accompany him and to have the same person present during interrogation.

The customs official was also not given the opportunity to go through and sign the interrogation records, another right guaranteed by the Supreme Court, the committee added.

Manasi said the police team from Midnapore had picked up her husband on July 5 from his Dum Dum residence and taken him to Baguiati police station, on way to the district. The alleged torture of the official, who the police suspected of having links with People’s War, had first taken place at Baguiati police station, she claimed.

Manasi said her husband had been picked up without a warrant and beaten up, which had “deeply humiliated” him.

Sinha’s father-in-law Moloy Sinha, a decorated policeman who had reached the police station later on July 5 night, said he was not aware of Avijit’s whereabouts between 1 am and 6 am that day.

Ray opposed Mitra’s plea for a copy of the truth committee report, saying this would hurt police investigation into the case.

Justice Kabir said he would pass a verdict only after going through the report and related documents in detail.

Police had in 2002 launched a severe crackdown on People’s War, an outfit that the ruling Left sees as its ideological foe and blames for violence in Midnapur and adjacent districts. However, the severity of the crackdown lessened following criticism.

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