MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court directed the Mumbai commissioner of police today to initiate an inquiry into the alleged custodial death of a 29-year-old man here.
The body of Deepak Jadhav was found hanging inside the Mankhurd police station in August 2015.
Claiming that it was a case of suicide, police neither registered an FIR nor got a judicial magistrate to inquire into the case, though the same is mandatory under the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).
A bench of Justices B R Gavai and B P Colabawalla, however, took a strong exception to these "lapses in law", and directed that the police inquiry be conducted by an officer not below the ranks of inspector general of police (IGP).
As per the plea filed by Deepa Jadhav, the wife of the deceased, the incident had occurred in August 2015.
Deepak was brought to Mankhurd police station by some local residents, who claimed that he wa trying to steal bikes from near a residential society.
However, a few hours later, his body was found hanging from the ceiling fan inside the changing room of the police officials inside the station.
The petitioner claimed that the police had assaulted him, which led to his death and that they had eventually made the incident look like a suicide case.
The police, however, claimed that the residents had assaulted Deepak before bringing him to the police station and that the police had no role in his death.
"The police did not even arrest him. They let him go after questioning. However, about an hour after he was let go, he returned to the station and went to the second floor of the station where the changing room is located, and committed suicide," Additional Public Prosecutor (APP) Mankunwar Deshmukh said.
The bench, however, asked how it was possible for a common citizen to go up to the changing room without being noticed by the staff at the police station.
"The APP's theory is prima facie very difficult to digest. Does the police mean to say that anybody can enter the police station, and go unnoticed up to the changing room meant for the officers?" the bench said.
It also questioned why the police had failed to inform a judicial or metropolitan magistrate about the incident.
As per an amendment to the CrPC in 2005, an inquiry must be conducted by the judicial magistrate or metropolitan magistrate into any death or disappearance that takes place in the police custody.
Also, such inquiry must be conducted within 24 hours from the incident.
In the present case, however, the police merely got an executive magistrate to conduct the inquiry.
"What about the lapses in law committed by the police Either the concerned police officers are unaware of the law and the basic provisions of the CrPC or they had some hidden intention," the bench said.
"And if they missed out on informing a judicial magistrate due to ignorance of the law, then do they even deserve to continue as police officers? Shouldn't they be suspended?" the bench said.
The high court has directed the police to submit its inquiry report to the court within four weeks.