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NHRC Flags 'Shady' Report of Judicial Inquiry into Death of Undertrial Prisoner in Gujarat

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An additional chief metropolitan magistrate (ACMM) of Ahmedabad conducted the inquiry and concluded that the prisoner's death was "natural".

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has set aside the report of a judicial inquiry into the death of an undertrial prisoner at Sabarmati Central Prison in Gujarat in 2017, terming the conclusion as "shady", officials said on Friday. An additional chief metropolitan magistrate (ACMM) of Ahmedabad conducted the inquiry and concluded that the prisoner's death was "natural".

Expressing serious concern over the order of the judicial officer, the commission has directed its registry to bring the matter to the notice of the Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court for consideration of taking necessary action on the presence of such judicial officers. "On the basis of the material on record, it has held that the undertrial prisoner died due to the negligence and torture by the jail officials of Sabarmati Central Prison, Ahmedabad on 29.05.2017, and that the Judicial Enquiry Report is shady in nature and hence, cannot be relied upon," the rights panel said in a statement.

The NHRC has "set aside the conclusion" of the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate of Ahmedabad that the death was "natural", it said. The commission has noted in its proceedings in the matter that it is very surprising and shocking to know that though 22 ante-mortem injuries over the body of the deceased were clearly reflected in post-mortem report, but still inquiry magistrate i.e. ACMM, Ahmedabad, Gujarat had stated that no injury was found to be present on the deceased. The Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court has to seriously consider the presence of such Judicial Officers in public domain," the statement said.

The NHRC statement said it has also "issued a notice to the chief secretary of the government of Gujarat to show cause why not an interim relief of Rs 3 lakh should not be recommended to be paid to the next of the kin of the deceased undertrial prisoner, as his human rights were violated by the delinquent jail officials". The Director General of Police of Gujarat has been asked to submit a detailed report along with criminal case registered and progress in the matter. The response is expected within four weeks, it added.

The Commission has noted that the prisoner was "normal" at the time of entry into the jail and died within two days of his entry into the jail. "The strong scientific and biological forensic evidence cannot be undermined as far as the cause of death is concerned. This is also a fact that he was in jail for the past two days before his death in the hospital. Hence, there is no point in accepting that his death was natural. This is a clear case of unnatural death in the judicial custody of Sabarmati Central Jail, hence the state is vicariously responsible for the same," the NHRC observed in the statement.

Further, the commission held that the statements of the family members of the victim after his death bear no relevance as the victim was in jail and the family members may not have met the prisoner after sustaining injuries, when he was alive.


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