Bench says it wants to ensure ‘posthumous justice’ in the case of custodial death
The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has transferred the probe into the alleged Saptur youth custodial torture and subsequent death case to the CB-CID. The court made it clear that the direction to transfer the investigation in the case should not be deemed as casting aspersions on the rights and defence of police personnel.
Justice G.R. Swaminathan, who earlier ordered re-post mortem examination in the case, laid down a series of guidelines to be followed in the conduct of post-mortems in cases involving custodial deaths. Every time a custodial death occurred, the legitimacy of the State suffered a dent. It can be set right only by ensuring transparent investigation, the judge said.
“A dead person is equally entitled to justice. I would call it posthumous justice. Whenever someone suffers an unnatural death, the circumstances that led to it will have to be unearthed. Otherwise, there will be no closure,” the judge observed.
CB-CID gets more time
Although the State primarily functions through its coercive apparatus, its actions must be perceived as proper by the people. What the government does must inspire the confidence of the people, he said. The court directed the CB-CID to complete the investigation in four months and submit a final report before the jurisdictional court concerned.
In the set of directions, the court said the judicial magistrate conducting the inquiry under Section 176(1)(A) Cr.P.C. should ensure that the family of the deceased or its representatives were allowed to see the body both front and back and allowed to take video and photos.
No autopsy shall take place or commence without the next of the kin having seen the body. Of course, if the family of the deceased refuses to see the body, even after so being permitted by the Judicial Magistrate concerned conducting the inquiry, the Judicial Magistrate can, in writing, permit the conduct of post-mortem.
The autopsy shall be carried out by a team of two doctors who have a master’s degree in forensic medicine and are attached to a medical college and hospital in the State. In other words, what is called a forensic autopsy must be conducted. The autopsy shall be done by adhering to the norms already laid down by the High Court.
The whole body shall be x-rayed in order to find out if there are any fractures. The entire autopsy should be vidographed from the start of the examination till its completion by adhering to the six phases set out in “A Textbook of Medical Jurisprudence and Toxicology” 26th Edition edited by Justice K. Kannan.
The autopsy report should be prepared expeditiously and handed over to the investigating officer in the case so that the filing of the final report was not delayed. A copy of the autopsy report as well as video should be simultaneously given to the legal heir or representatives of the family of the deceased.
This alone will enable them to take recourse to legal remedies immediately. If after receipt of the autopsy report, the legal heir/representative of the deceased family gives in writing that he or she intends to move the High Court, the body shall be preserved in the mortuary for at least 48 hours, the judge said.
“If the body is disposed of either by cremation or otherwise in the meanwhile, the very purpose of holding a second post-mortem will be rendered infructuous. All of us know that hasty cremation in the tragic Hathras gangrape case led to controversy. It is in the interest of the police to take the family of the deceased into confidence and avoid rushing things through. They are stakeholders in the process and the police have to treat them accordingly,” the judge said.
The court was hearing the petition filed by K. Santhosh, brother of Ramesh, 20, who died allegedly due to custodial torture. Ramesh was found hanging from a tree.
It is said that their elder brother Idhayakani had eloped with a relative, and her family filed a complaint with the Saptur police.
The petitioner alleged that they were subjected to torture by the police on a regular basis in the name of inquiry and sought a re-post mortem examination and a CB-CID probe.