Though the number marginally reduced, Maharashtra continued to top the country in 2016 when it came to deaths taking place in police custody. The state police are currently under fire for the death of one Aniket Kothale in Sangli district earlier this month. Kothale (26) and his friend Amol Bhandare (23) were arrested by the police in Sangli on November 6 in a case of robbery.
Five policemen at the police station allegedly assaulted both, following which Kothale became unconscious and died of his injuries. The policemen and a civilian police informer are accused of pressuring doctors at a government hospital to give them a favourable post-mortem report, which would not reflect the injuries as the cause of death. Investigations so far have also revealed that the policemen allegedly burnt Kothale’s body twice in order to destroy evidence of custodial torture.
The state government suspended seven personnel at the police station in addition to transferring the district police superintendent and the deputy superintendent. The National Human Rights Commission also took cognisance of the case and issued notices to the state administration.
According to data released by the National Crime Records Bureau’s Crime in India 2016 report, there were 16 deaths in police custody in the state last year. Of those, eight died before the police produced them before court to obtain their formal custody. Only Haryana and Madhya Pradesh had deaths in police custody in double figures, with 11 each.
The data also shows that one death in 2016 took place due to injuries sustained while in police custody, while eight persons committed suicide in lock-up. The 2016 data shows only one natural death in police custody.
In contrast, there were 19 deaths in police custody in 2015, with six suicides and the reason for another six listed in the report as ‘hospitalisation’. That year, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh had nine deaths each.
There has been a steady decline in custodial death figures in the state, with Maharashtra also recording a nationwide high of 21 deaths in 2014. That year, only AP came closest with 18 deaths in police lock-ups.