news Wednesday, November 26, 2014 - 05:30
Sameera Ahmed | The News Minute | August 21, 2014 | 6.43 pm IST The death of a history-sheeter in police custody on Wednesday evening in Chennai has reinforced Tamil Nadu’s dubious position as having the second highest number of custodial deaths for any state.  The 32-year-old history-sheeter was picked up by a special team in connection with a theft case and allegedly assaulted by them when he was taken to recover the loot. He was then admitted to Stanley hospital where he died, according to report in The New Indian Express.  According to Ossie Fernandes , Director at Human Rights Advocacy and Research Foundation, Wednesday’s death takes the total number of police custodial deaths to seven this year. “These numbers are based on official reports only. Unofficially, the numbers should be ten by now,” he said.  In July, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) came out with a report that Tamil Nadu has the second highest number of custodial deaths among the states after Maharastra. Statistics showed the number of deaths at 15 in 2013, as compared to seven in 2012 in the state. “When we are presented with a case, first fact finding is done. If possible litigation is filed. It all depends on what data we are able to collect usually,” said Mr. Fernandes.  The maximum punishment meted out to a police officer is either suspension or a dismissal, no officer is sent to jail, said Mr. Fernandes. “Under the current legal system, you need to really work to prove it, he said. Police officials of rank are protected by a cover of immunity. “Officers usually have impunity. You need to get sanctions to prosecute them and that is done very rarely. Usually only abetment to murder under Section 174 is proved which is suspicious death. Officers are not charged with murder,” said Mr. Fernandes. In pursuing a case which involves a police custody death, an FIR that accuses the police officer of murder is required. “Quite a few times, the case is closed saying that death was not by torture but because the person committed suicide,” said Sudha Ramalingam, a senior lawyer. According to Sudha Ramalingam, there are guidelines set by the National Human Rights Commision that necessitate procedures after a police custody death. “Usually videography report of the postmortem is required to be conducted,” she said. “These deaths should not be considered as unnatural deaths but should be brought under Section 302 as murder. They shouldn’t be brought under Section 174 and closed off,” she added.

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