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Death in Police Custody Requires Post-Mortem: Madras High Court

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The petition, filed under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code in Madras High Court. The case of S. Prema v. The Superintendent of Police and Ors. was filed for an interim direction for conduction of post-mortem by doctors from JIPMER hospital along with direction to SP of police for registration of case based on petitioner’s complaint on 05-11-2020. Justice Mr. T. -Ravindran heard and allowed the petition.

Facts of the Case

When petitioner’s husband went missing on 28.10.2020, she went to file a missing report, and there she was told to give 10 sovereign gold chains for the release of her husband which she did on 29-10-2020 and then on 30-10-2020 when she visited the police station on being called there, she noticed her husband was weeping as he was coerced and threatened by beating with lathis all over the body, to admit that he committed theft. There she again deposited ₹5,000.

Later when she visited her husband in jail, she noticed he was very tired and he has sustained an injury on his throat which made him unable to consume food. When he was taken to the hospital, she insisted on him being treated as an inpatient but was refused and her husband was taken back into custody. Later she was informed he is admitted again to the hospital, where she was later informed, he died. She contends that he was attacked by a DSP crime party, no proper post-mortem was done and there was tempering of evidence.

Arguments of the Parties

Respondents contend that post-mortem of the deceased was already done on 06-11-2020 in the presence of doctors, which was also video-graphed and later transferred to CB CID for further investigation. It was contended that he was taken into custody on 30-10-2020 at 10.40 am and was produced before the magistrate at 11.45 pm,  and only after the deceased was taken into remand that it was found that he was suffering from epilepsy and when he got an attack of epilepsy he was taken to hospital and he was declared dead by the doctor on duty and hence post-mortem was conducted.

Whereas Petitioner contends that her husband was taken into unlawful custody on 28-10-2020 along with proof. She also contends that her husband was abused by respondent police and hence the injuries inflicted were by police officials which caused his death. To cover all this, the post-mortem was done hastily and hence tempered the evidence. Therefore, a post-mortem should be conducted again.

Court’s Observation

The court observed that when a serious doubt has been raised with reference to the cause of death of the deceased during custody, the petitioner alleging that her husband died only due to the injuries meted out to him by the torture and abuse caused by the police officials and where respondents allege that he died due to epilepsy along with questions of unreasonable delay on producing before a magistrate, the post-mortem can be conducted again. This principle is already established in Rohini Kumar v. District Collector and Ors.

Court’s Decision

The Court left it on Judicial Magistrate to order another post-mortem with the presence of a doctor appointed by Petitioner, specifically a government doctor if it deems fit. The court also ordered respondents to allow petitioner, relatives, and an Advocate to view the body of the deceased as they would be anxious for the same.

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