According to a report from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) the number of custodial deaths in Maharashtra dropped from 34 in 2013 to 21 in 2014, but despite guidelines from courts, the state’s record on custodial deaths remains the worst of any state. The 21 deaths put it at the top of the 2014 list, ahead of second-place Andhra Pradesh, with 18. Of the 21 who died in Maharashtra, only four had been remanded in police custody by a court, while the remaining 17 had not.
Police torture was responsible for two of the 21 deaths, mob attacks and riots for four and suicides for another four. Seven died after being hospitalized, while one died while trying to escape. Only three of the 21 deaths in police custody were put down to natural causes.
A source said that policemen on duty often neglect simple procedures such as medical tests of suspects. For instance, a suspect who died in the lock-up of Vanrai police station in October 2013 had been beaten up by mob before he was arrested. But as the police did not get his medical tests done, three cops were arrested for his death. A sources in the state police said many deaths were the result of self-inflicted injuries.
One of the deaths by police torture was that of 25-year-old Agnelo Valdaris, a resident of BPT Colony, who arrested by the Government Railway Police at Wadala on charges of robbing a woman passenger on a train. Valdaris died from alleged police torture while in custody. The CBI registered a case of murder against 10 policemen and the Bombay high court instructed the police to install CCTV cameras in all police stations to curb the practice of torturing suspects.
Former assistant commissioner of police Jaywant Hargude said many custodial deaths are down to illness or because the suspect was beaten up by a mob before his arrest. He said the installation of CCTV cameras in police stations would reduce the number of custodial deaths, but admitted that the police’s laxity on standard procedures such as medical tests were responsible for some deaths.