The Bombay High Court Monday sought details from Maharashtra government on instances of custodial deaths in which judicial magistrates have not initiated an enquiry in accordance with the rules laid down by the government. A division bench of Justices A S Oka and A A Sayed said once the details are available, the court can issue directions to the judicial registrar to take up the matter with the magistrates concerned.
The high court was hearing a bunch of petitions, including a public interest litigation, on the rising number of custodial death cases in the state. Government pleader Mankunwar Deshmukh informed the court that there were several such cases where the judicial magistrates refused to take cognisance of the reference made to them.
“Give us details of these cases in which magistrates did not entertain despite reference to them. We will issue appropriate directions. In seven cases, judicial enquiry has been completed and report has been submitted. We also have to see what has to be done after the report is filed. Otherwise judicial enquiry would just be an empty formality,” Justice Oka said.
The court also sought to know where the bodies in such cases were sent for post-mortem and were informed they were sent to medical colleges as medical officers still needed to be appointed in districts. Deshmukh also informed the court that in the year 2015-16, there had been 69 cases of custodial deaths but no instance of rape of women in custody. Out of these 69 cases, 48 have been referred to judicial magistrates and 21 to executive magistrates for enquiry.
The court further directed the state Home department to appoint an officer to conduct inspection of the 25 police stations where CCTVs have been installed as a pilot project. “We will have to see if the CCTVs are installed in strategic places so that the entire police station is covered. Some officer from the home department shall conduct inspection and file report,” the court said. It has posted the matter for hearing on Thursday.