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Wednesday, January 29, 2020

‘Custodial death’ of Dalit youth: Gujarat Police give NHRC summon another miss

Kantilal Parmar, a Dalit activist, approached the NHRC seeking its intervention in the matter. “We demand Rs 1 crore compensation for the victim’s family and government job for his younger brother,” Parmar told The Indian Express.

Written by Vaibhav Jha | Ahmedabad | Published: November 27, 2019 9:33:47 am
‘Custodial death’ of Dalit youth: Gujarat Police give NHRC summon another miss Jignesh Sondarva, a resident of Dungar village in Amreli, died after being in police custody for three days in 2017. (Express photo)

Days after the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) lashed out at the Gujarat Police and administration officials over their alleged “callous, irresponsible and non-responsive attitude” over the inquiry pertaining to the custodial death of a 30-year-old Dalit man in a jail in Amreli in 2017 and issued an “unconditional summon” to the officials to appear in front of the commission in Delhi on Tuesday, the summon was given another miss.

The NHRC, in its summon notice, a copy of which is with The Indian Express, pulled up the Inspector General (IG) of Prisons in Gujarat Police for his alleged failure to submit the requisite report or appear in front of the commission earlier in September, which led the rights body to heavily criticise the authorities concerned regarding the inquiry into the death of the Dalit youth.

“The Commission is pained at the callous, irresponsible and non-responsive attitude of the authority concerned… Inspector General of Prisons, Prison Headquarters, Govt of Gujrat, Gandhinagar, and other authorities cannot escape from filing the requisite reports and they are directed to furnish the requisite reports and documents in the death case of inmate of the district jail Amreli (sic),” read the summon notice by NHRC.

The commission then gave “another chance” to the IG Prisons and other senior police and administration officials to appear before them on November 26, in New Delhi.

IG Prisons SK Gadhvi refused to comment on the matter, while police and administrative officials in Amreli claimed that they already submitted a magisterial inquiry report and details of postmortem of the deceased man, around 10 days ago.

According to the case, 30-year-old Jignesh Sondarva, a resident of Dungar village in Amreli, was picked up by a team of Dungar Police on July 12, 2017, in a case pertaining to the violation of Prohibition Act. He was presented before the Rajula Judicial Magistrate who denied him bail and sent him to judicial custody in Amreli sub-jail.

On July 15, 2017, the family members of Sondarva were called to Amreli Civil Hospital where he ad allegedly died under suspicious circumstances. The postmortem report stated head injury as the cause of death even as the family members alleged that his head was repeatedly bashed against the wall by fellow inmates while he was in jail. Later, an FIR was lodged against four inmates and they were arrested.

Kantilal Parmar, a Dalit activist, approached the NHRC seeking its intervention in the matter. “We demand Rs 1 crore compensation for the victim’s family and government job for his younger brother,” Parmar told The Indian Express.

The NHRC sought various reports from the IG Prisons SK Gadhvi, Superintendent of Police Amreli, Nirlipt Rai and district collector Amreli Aayush Oak, stating, “The report documents includes (1) complete medical treatment record, (2) Inquest report, (3) Magisterial enquiry report, (4) VC/CD of postmortem report, (5) Action taken report on the magisterial enquiry report, (6) final outcome/status of departmental action or criminal proceedings against the offenders and (7) Health screening report of victim at the time of entry in jail and (8) final cause of death of the victim.That the concerned authorities are bound to submit the action taken report regarding the allegations and grievances of the complainant under section 13 (2) of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 and they are legally bound to furnish the required information within the meaning of section 176 and section 177 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1960) (sic).”

The NHRC stated that the IG Prisons of Gujarat Police had on two occasions ignored the notices issued by the rights body. “The Commission vides its proceedings dated 11.07.2019 issued conditional summons to the Inspector General of Prisons, Prison Headquarters, Govt. of Gujarat, Gandhinagar to file the requisite report on or before 06.09.2019 failing which he was directed to appear in person before the Commission along with the report on 13.09.2019. In pursuant to the directions, Inspector General of Prisons, Prison Headquarters, Govt. of Gujarat, Gandhinagar did not file the requisite report, nor did he appear before the Commission on 13.09.2019 (sic),” read the NHRC notice.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Amreli Collector Aayush Oak said, “The Chief Judicial Magistrate of Amreli has completed the magisterial inquiry and submitted the report around 10 days ago, which I had forwarded. The principal district judge also informed the NHRC that the inquiry report has been submitted.”

Nirlipt Rai, SP Amreli, told The Indian Express, “The inquiry is conducted by the court and final report has already been submitted.”

A copy of a letter sent by incharge Superintendent of Police in Amreli, Premsukh Delu, to the deputy registrar of NHRC, dated November 21, has been accessed by The Indian Express, which stated that the CD of postmortem report along with magisterial inquiry report had been sent to the commission on November 20.

SK Gadhvi, the IG prisons of Gujarat Police, refused to comment. He was appointed IG Prisons in October, after the retirement of IPS Mohan Jha from the post. Ahmedabad city police commissioner Ashish Bhatia was given the additional charge of IG Prisons for a few months after Jha retired.

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