CHENNAI: As many as 157 custodial deaths were reported in Tamil Nadu between 2012 and 2016, the government told the first bench of the Madras High Court recently. Of them, 134 cases had been concluded based on the reports of the judicial magistrates and inquiry in 23 are yet to be completed, the State Home Secretary submitted in his counter-affidavit filed in response to a PIL taken up suo motu.
The PIL was initiated by the High Court following certain directives from the Supreme Court recently. The object of the suo motu proceedings is to identify the next of kin of the deceased prisoners, whose deaths from 2012 to 2015 and thereafter have been classified as unnatural by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for award of suitable compensation.
In its order dated September 15, 2017, the apex court said that the effort of the constitutional courts in safeguarding the dignity of individual, particularly against custodial violence, will continue as long as Article 21 (right to protection of life and personal liberty) remains in the Constitution. It had also directed all High Courts in the country to initiate such suo motu proceedings to identify and compensate the victims of custodial deaths.
When the plea came up for hearing on January 29 last, the State made the submissions through an affidavit before the bench. Recording the submissions, the bench said that the inquiry should be concluded expeditiously and if it is found that the next of kin are entitled to compensation, the same shall be released at the earliest, not later than four months. The bench then posted the plea to June 8 for further filing of status report.