Custodial torture leading to death of person not acceptable in civilised society: Supreme Court

NEW DELHI: Custodial violence which lead to the death of a person is “abhorrent” and “not acceptable in the civilized society”, the Supreme Court on Thursday said, while refusing to compound the offence of two policemen, accused of assaulting a man, who later succumbed to injuries in 1988 in Odisha.

The top court said that the offence committed by the accused is crime not against the deceased alone but was against humanity and clear violations of rights guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.

A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and Ajay Rastogi, while refusing to compound the offence under section 324 of IPC (voluntary causing hurt), enhanced the compensation to be given to the family members of the deceased.

“The custodial violence on the deceased which led to the death is abhorrent and not acceptable in the civilized society,” the bench said, and added, “The beating of a person in the Police Station is the concern for all and causes a sense of fear in the entire society.”

The bench said that people go to the Police Station with the hope that their person and property will be protected by the police and injustice and offence committed on them shall be redressed and the guilty be punished.

“When the protector of people and society himself instead of protecting the people adopts brutality and inhumanly beat the person who comes to the police station, it is a matter of great public concern,” the bench said.

The top court verdict came on a plea filed by the two accused police officers, who have since retired against the conviction upheld by the High Court and for commuting of the offence.

The accused police officer had “mercilessly beaten” up a man at a police station in Odisha leaving him grievously injured and later succumbing to his injuries.

“We, thus, are of the considered opinion that present is a case where this Court is not to grant leave for compounding the offences under Section 324 of IPC as prayed by the counsel for the appellants,” it said and noted that the present is a case where the accused who were police officers, one of them being in-charge of Station and other Senior Inspector have themselves brutally beaten the deceased, who died the same night.

“Their offences cannot be compounded by the Court in exercise of Section 320(2) read with subsection (5). We, thus, reject the prayer of the appellants to compound the offence,” the bench said.

It said that the Police of State is protector of law and order and the people look forward to the Police to protect their life and property.

The top court further said that the nature of offence and its effect on society are relevant considerations while granting leave by the Court of compounding the offence.

“The offences which affect the public in general and create fear in the public in general are serious offences, nature of which offence may be relevant consideration for Court to grant or refuse the leave,” it said.

The top court, however, reduced the sentence of two of the accused, who are now 75 years-of age and directed that enhanced compensation of Rs.3.5 lakh each be paid to the family members of the deceased.