Ruling that there was a difference in a suicidal death in police custody and a suicide elsewhere, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court held that the former attracted tortuous liability to state.
A division bench of justice AH Joshi and justice UV Bakre directed the state government to pay Rs2 lakh to the family of Nitin Patil, 23, a resident of Kanhan village of Nagpur district, who allegedly committed suicide while in custody of the Ramtek police.
The compensation will carry interest at the rate of 6% per annum from July 23, 2003, the day Patil died.
The government had argued that suicidal death was too remote a cause for claiming compensation since it was not attributable to any wrong. The court, however, discarded the contention.
The bench also shifted the burden on the police to prove that the suicide was not due to torture or ill treatment meted out to the victim.
The police had labelled Patil a habitual offender after he was arrested in 2000 for a petty offence.
Patil shifted to Orissa and got married. However, when he visited his native place on July 11, 2003, the Kanhan police arrested him. Four different police stations registered six different offences against him.
Noting that four of the six cases were registered against unknown persons, the high court observed, “It [arrest] can be for motive, which smacks of being ulterior, at least it lacks due diligence, bonafides and basic respect to the rights of the citizens.”
Patil’s family members had sought Rs10 lakh compensation alleging the police brutality had driven him to commit suicide. The court, however, reduced it to Rs2 lakh.