Expanding the scope of human rights jurisprudence, the Supreme Court has ruled that if policemen confine an asthmatic to a dusty room with cobwebs resulting in his/her death, it would amount to custodial death.
A bench of Justices Altamas Kabir and Markandeya Katju said the investigating officers could be punished for culpable homicide not amounting to murder under Section 304 Part-II of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that attracts a maximum punishment of 10-year imprisonment.
The bench rejected the plea of five police officers working under the Madhya Pradesh Lok Ayukta who had contended that the offence could at best invite prosecution under Section 323 of IPC (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt) for which the maximum punishment is one year and Rs 1,000 fine.
“The condition of the room where the deceased had been detained was completely unsuitable for a patient of asthma as it was filled with dust and cobwebs sufficient to trigger an asthmatic attack which could have caused asphyxia which ultimately led to R.K Jain’s death,” the court said.
The court upheld the appeal filed by Indu Jain, wife of deceased R.K Jain, deputy commissioner of commercial taxes, Bhopal, challenging a Madhya Pradesh High Court order which had directed framing of charge under the minor offence of 323 IPC against the accused policemen.
R.K. Jain was picked up on July 14, 2004 for questioning by the investigating wing of the Lok Ayukta after he allegedly took a bribe of Rs 2,000 from a tax consultant. He was found dead the next day.