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Judicial probe in custodial death case

More than 14 years after inmate Robert Inold Almeda was found dead under suspicious circumstances in the Thane Central Prison, the Bombay High Court, on Monday, ordered a judicial probe into his death.

mumbai Updated: Jan 11, 2011 01:59 IST
HT Correspondent

More than 14 years after inmate Robert Inold Almeda was found dead under suspicious circumstances in the Thane Central Prison, the Bombay High Court, on Monday, ordered a judicial probe into his death.

The division bench of justice BH Marlapalle and justice UD Salvi directed chief judicial magistrate, Thane, to inquire into Almeda’s alleged murder and submit a report by February 28. The bench also directed the home department to furnish the progress made in the investigation pertaining to 24 custodial deaths across the state between January 2008 and March 2009.

The court was hearing two public interest litigations filed by a social worker NR Soni and a non-governmental organisation India Centre for Human Rights and Law. While Soni had written to the high court about the Almeda case in 1996, the NGO had raised the issue of custodial deaths in the state.

On the basis of statistics compiled by the Asian Commission for Human Rights, Vijay Hiremath — counsel for the NGO — stated that 192 persons died, while in police custody, between 2001 and 2009.

Acting on the PIL filed by the NGO, the court earlier directed the secretary (home) to submit a report of progress in the probe or trials in cases of custodial deaths of at least four people from 2008 onwards. The court added 24 more custodial death cases, that were pointed out by Hiremath.

Soni’s PIL said Almeda was arrested on August 28, 1996, for allegedly assaulting his father. He was granted bail by a local court, but he could not avail the same and was ultimately remanded to judicial custody. On September 1, 1996, Almeda was found dead in his cell with several assault marks on his body. Inmates of nearby cells had purportedly seen some staffers brutally beating the accused on the previous night and some of them had given statements to a revenue officer, who inquired into the death, on record.