The Odisha High Court has rapped the government for praying for relief against sharing details of police custodial deaths – requested under an RTI application – even after a direction from the State Information Commission.
As per the 2016 report of the National Crime Records Bureau, there were a total of 92 deaths in police custody/lockup across the country, though activists say custodial deaths are underreported. Odisha had reported zero custodial deaths, while Maharasthra had reported the highest, at 16.
In 2007, RTI activist Biswapriya Kanungo had requested information on custodial deaths from January 1989 to December 2006. According to Kanungo, Odisha Police had rejected the RTI application, citing exemption for the Crime Branch, which compiles data on custodial deaths. “I approached the State Information Commission and they directed release of the information. However, the state government went to court on the matter,” he said.
Dismissing a writ petition filed by the state government to set aside the direction of the SIC, the HC, in an order passed on Monday but published on Wednesday, directed compliance on the matter within three weeks.
Kanungo and other activists say the Court’s decision will hopefully overcome a 12-year-long resistance from the state government to share information.