Meghalaya recorded as many as 49 cases of custodial deaths since 2012. A PIL on the matter was taken up by the Meghalaya High Court on Wednesday.
The Meghalaya High Court in its order said that the state and Dr N Mozika, Amicus Curiae, agreed that the number of deaths in custody since 2012 in Meghalaya was 49.
While the state maintains that several, if not most, of the deaths, have been due to natural causes, the post-mortem and other reports, according to Dr Mozika, indicate otherwise except in a few cases.
The state also submitted that a distinction ought to be made between deaths that may have occurred unnaturally without the person committing suicide and those who actually committed suicide and the post-mortem report reveals as such.
“There is no reason to elaborate on how death can occur unnaturally while a person is in custody. It is a similar cause that may drive a person to suicide. As such, in principle, no distinction may be made between unnatural deaths in custody, whether by suicide or otherwise. However, the State is left free to put forth its submission in such regard,” the court said.
Several of the heirs or the next of kin of the persons who suffered custodial death in the state since 2012 are represented.
The state says that the heirs or family members of all of the 49 persons had been attempted to be served, but the addresses of a few of them are not available. The state appears to have published advertisements.
The court however asked the state to make every further endeavour to ensure that the rightful persons are made aware of the present proceedings and the compensation that they may receive.
The state assured the court that the matter is under its active consideration and the state may itself take a decision with regard to the compensation payable, subject to the death being attributable to the police or the state.
“If the state conducts the exercise itself, based on the inputs given by Dr Mozika as to the reason of death in each of the 49 cases, as long as the quantum appears reasonable, the Court may allow the matter to rest. However, if the Court is required to take up the exercise, the quantum of compensation may be considerably higher,” the court stated in its order.
The next hearing will be held on March 22.