6 Oct 2011Dear friends,
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has learnt that a woman victim of police abuse committed suicide in Jemoumapara village, Murshidabad district, West Bengal, India. Ms Mithu Dey was abused and assaulted in the presence of several villagers by personnel of the Kandi Police Station. The police raided her house on 3 August 2011 in search of her husband, who was wanted in a criminal case. Without any arrest warrant, Mithu Dey and her minor son were taken to Kandi Police Station where they were further subjected to torture, before being released the following evening. Soon after returning home, Mithu hung herself in her room, reportedly being unable to overcome the mental and physical trauma she had suffered at the hands of the police.
According to information from MASUM, a human rights group in West Bengal, Mithu Dey was abused and assaulted in the presence of several villagers by personnel of the Kandi Police Station who raided her house on 3 August 2011 in search of her husband, who was wanted in a criminal case. Without any arrest warrant, Mithu Dey and her minor son were taken to Kandi Police Station where they were further subjected to torture, before being released the following evening. Soon after returning home, Mithu hung herself in her room, reportedly being unable to overcome the mental and physical trauma she had suffered at the hands of the police.
The victim’s husband Mr. Rajkumar Dey is an accused in connection with a criminal case (no. 318/2011 dated 3 August 2011 under sections 302/201 of the Indian Penal Code). The case was registered for the murder of Sukumar Dey, a relative of the victim. Since the lodging of the case Mr Rajkumar Dey started to hide due to fear of police harassment.
At the time of Sukumar’s murder, he was at the residence of Ms. Binapani Dey, Rajkumar’s mother. She used to live alone as there was an allegedly uncomfortable relationship between herself and her son. Every night one of her relatives or someone from the village used to stay at her residence with her. On the night of Sukumar’s murder, he was the one staying with her. The villagers suspect Rajkumar of the murder as he was not seen in the village since then.
The Kandi police visited Rajkumar’s house but could not find him. On August 3 at about 11am police personnel Sub-Inspector Mr Premashish Chattaraj, Sub-Inspector Mr Haralal Biswas and female constable Kakali Mukherjee again raided his house, but again could not find him. They became furious and ransacked the house. They also allegedly assaulted Rajkumar’s wife and son. According to Mithu’s neighbours Ms Sunita Dey, wife of Mr Soumendranath Dey and Ms Parvati Dey, wife of Mr Jagabandhu Dey, police constable Kakali Mukherjee was instructed by the two Sub-Inspectors to grab Mithu’s hair and slapped her face while asking for the whereabouts of her husband. The police then forcibly took Mithu and her son Sourav to the police station, where they were illegally detained. There, under the pretence of interrogation, they were tortured.
Mithu and Sourav were released on August 4. Unable to bear the trauma of the humiliation and torture she suffered, Mithu committed suicide that night, as reported by her family members and the local villagers. An unnatural death case was registered at the police station (no. 175/2011 dated 5 August 2011). The post mortem examination was held on the same day at Kandi Sub-Divisional Hospital. The doctor who conducted the examination, Dr. Hansaraj Chattopadhya refused to disclose the cause of death to MASUM.
When MASUM visited the Kandi Police Station on August 7 to inquire about the police atrocities committed against Mithu, Inspector-in-Charge Jotish Chandra Roy only said he was not present at the station on that day, and would not disclose any further information regarding the incident.
We have learnt that Rajkumar surrendered himself to the court and is presently in custody. The whereabouts of Rajkumar’s mother and son are presently unknown.
Detaining a person with the intention to force the surrender of a relative is an offence under Section 348 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Similarly, voluntarily causing hurt to a person to extract a confession is also an offence punishable under Section 330 of the Penal Code. If found guilty, the former offense calls for a mandatory imprisonment that may extend to three years and the latter for imprisonment up to seven years.
Detaining the relatives of a suspect or an absconder is a common but illegal practice, followed by the law enforcement agencies in India. The police had no reason whatsoever to detain the victim and her child at the police station for a day. In addition, they have also tortured the victim at the time they searched the victim’s house and as alleged, at the police station. It is unfortunate that the victim killed herself after release from custody. The fact that the victim committed suicide immediately after her release from custody, is an aggravating factor that has to be taken into account while the case is investigated. If the investigation proves that the reason for the victim to commit suicide, is the torture and the resultant shock the victim suffered, from being illegally detained with her child at the police station and of being tortured, the police officers responsible for the crime are also punishable for yet another crime, under Section 306 of the Penal Code, for abetting suicide. The offense carries a punishment of imprisonment that may extend to a period of 10 years and fine.
Above all this, the police have no legal authority to detain a minor at the police station, as it has reported in this case.
It is reported that the police have not kept any details as to the detention of the victim and her child at the police station. This is also a usual practice the police follows in India in order to illegally detain persons. Despite repeated directions from the Supreme Court of India, the latest in the D. K. Basu case, which even led to a comprehensive amendment of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, the police fails to comply every statutory provisions that are required to be observed while arresting and detaining a person. This case is one more unfortunate example of this illegal and inhuman practice.
The AHRC condemns the brutal behaviour of the Kandi police that led to the death of a woman. The incident must be investigated and the responsible officers suitably punished, and steps taken to ensure that such incidents do not recur.
Please write a letter to the authorities below demanding an immediate and effective inquiry into this incident. The police officers responsible for the illegal detention and torture of the victim must be prosecuted and punished accordingly.
Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-188-2011
4 October 2011