Custodial deaths mar police credibility

Cuttack: Incidents of alleged custodial deaths at several police stations have adversely affected the credibility of police and besides causing embarrassment for the state government.
Though agencies like Crime Branch (CB), Human Rights Protection Cell (HRPC) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) have been assigned to probe the allegations, in most cases the mystery behind arrested persons’ death in custody has remained unsolved.
Whenever there is an allegation of a custodial death, the police higher-ups have used junior-level security personnel as a scapegoat in order to douse the public anger. But, no step has been taken to find out the guilty and devise a proper mechanism to check such incidents in future, claimed social activists and intellectuals.
HRPC sources said at least eight cases of alleged custodial deaths have been reported across the state in last 26 months. Altogether four persons had allegedly died in custody in 2016 and the number was three in 2017.
The recent death of a 26-year-old tribal at Ainthapali police station in Sambalpur sparked violent protests from public. Victim’s family alleged that he died due to police torture. But, police claimed that the man, an accused in a theft case, committed suicide by hanging himself in the lock-up.
“A person gets seven years of imprisonment if he is convicted in a case of theft. The Supreme Court has clearly said that police must serve notice on the accused in theft cases before the arrest. But, officials of Ainthapali police station have flouted the SC guidelines. An investigation by an independent agency can bring the truth out,” said advocate and social activist Nishikanta Mishra.
Sources said Bhalu Pradhan, a resident of Bhakuda, had died at Mahanga police station under mysterious circumstances in 2002, while Bhaskar Behera, a villager, died in the custody at Athagarh police station in 2007.
According to reports, Gunanidhi Nayak (68) and Saroj Senapati (45) had allegedly died at Kishan Nagar police station and Narasinghpur police station respectively in 2016.
Nakul Kumar Dehuri, a youth, had allegedly died at the custody of Chamakhandi police station in Ganjam in 2013. Incident of alleged custodial death was also reported from Sahid Nagar police station in Bhubaneswar. Accused Kuldeep Mahapatra had died at Sahid Nagar police station June 5, 2012. CBI had initiated a probe into the allegation, but the case is yet to be solved, sources said.
“Every citizen has the Right to Life as guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution. Police officials often violate the Fundamental Rights of citizens in the name of probing cases of crime. Only exemplary punishment on guilty officials can check custodial deaths,” said advocate and human rights activist Prabir Kumar Das.
Former director general of police (DGP) Gopal Chandra Nanda puts emphasis on proper investigation into the alleged cases of custodial death. “In some cases the allegations have been vindicated, while in a few others they have been found to be false. Four police officials were arrested and produced in court in connection with the custodial death of Makhun Bagh at Bheden police station,” he said.
HRPC Additional Director General of Police (ADG) Mahendra Pratap said they probe allegations of custodial deaths as per the guidelines laid down by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). “We report the allegation of custodial deaths to the NHRC and the Orissa Human Rights Commission (OHRC). We opt for video recording of the inquest and postmortem of victims’ bodies in the presence of a magistrate. There have been several occasions when action has been taken against the guilty as per our probe report,” he claimed. PNN

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