AHMEDABAD: The answer of the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) to an RTI (Right to Information) query has revealed a shocker: Gujarat recorded 55 custodial deaths in 2017. Ahmedabad city topped the chart with 15 deaths in custody — two in police custody and 13 at the Sabarmati central jail.
The RTI application — filed by a human rights activist from Mehsana, Kaushik Parmar — also revealed that 33 (60%) of the 55 custodial deathshad occurred in big cities such as Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Surat, and Vadodara. Rajkot, Surat, and Vadodara reported six custodial deaths each in 2017. Custodial death is a death in the custody of jail authorities or police. Death in judicial custody means that the accused or the convict died in jail; and death in police custody means that the victim was still in the lockup.
In another revelation, the RTI reply from the SHRC said that Ahmedabad city also registered the highest number of human rights violation cases in 2017 — 783, of which 766 were disposed of by the commission. As many as 17 pleas concerning alleged human rights violation are still pending with the SHRC.
Parmar said that the SHRC recorded 55 custodial deaths in 2017 but seven of those had occurred in police custody which meant that the offenders might have been tortured in the lockup. “The SHRC must direct an independent inquiry into custodial deaths,” he said. “Though a departmental inquiry is mandatory, it has to be determined in how many cases inquiries were conducted and what the current status of those inquiries is.”
Shamshad Pathan, an advocate and activist from Ahmedabad, held police torture responsible for custodial deaths. “Whether it is death in lockups or jails, the accused or jail inmates are often tortured and humiliated, which leads to their death,” Pathan said. “In some cases, the police manage to get away by saying that the victim died of cardiac arrest. But if the cases of cardiac arrest in jails are probed thoroughly, they would definitely reveal torture by the police.” Pathan demanded that a tribunal or an independent inquiry committee be formed to deal with these cases.
The State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) did not undertake field visits of districts across the state where human rights violations were reported in 2016-17, the reply to the RTI query revealed.
On the query seeking the names of districts which the commission had visited, the RTI reply read, “Not a single district was visited wherein the incidents of human rights violations were reported in the year 2016 and 2017.”
Kaushik Parmar, the petitioner, said: “This is a serious issue. The SHRC did not even bother to visit districts where human rights violation had occurred; these include Una, where Dalits were flogged in 2016.” Parmar went on to say: “Moreover, around 70 Dalits had to leave their village, Maniyari, in Chanasma taluka in Patan district in 2016 and they were forced to live in shanties. The SHRC did not even attempt to take stock of the situation.”
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Updated On: Mar 11, 2018