A fact-finding team has flagged irregularities in the custodial death of an 18-year-old Muslim girl in West Bengal’s Uttar Dinajpur district. According to police, on 20 October, the girl died by suicide inside a toilet of Hemtabad Police Station.
The fact-finding team was led by the secretary of the human rights group MASUM, Kirity Roy and two other activists who don’t want to be named. They say that the police are trying to cover up foul play by intimidating the girl’s family and offering compensation.
“The family is under pressure from the police and local politicians not to pursue the case,” Roy told Maktoob. He also shared the postmortem report and other relevant documents to back his claims.
The report alleges that police informed the family about the girl’s death after about three hours.
“For more than 20 hours the family members of the victim were not permitted to see the body of the girl,” alleges the report.
The girl was detained and brought to the station “for security reasons” after she picketed the house of a 17-year-old boy she was in a relationship demanding their marriage.
The girl was a student of Bangalbari High School and a resident of Bagidanga village.
Girl’s kin told the fact-finding team that the boy’s maternal uncle had threatened to kill her after the couple eloped. According to neighbours, one woman police constable, three male civic volunteers and one male Sub Inspector came to the spot and detained the girl.
During the time of arrest (Sec 46 of CrPC) the police personnel of Hemtabad Police Station did not inform the family members of the victim girl.
After the incident at about 1 pm, police personnel took the girl to a Hospital where the on-duty doctor declared her brought dead. At 4:30 pm, Kaliaganj police informed the family members of the girl.
It is also alleged that the inquest was not done by any Judicial Magistrate which completely violated section 176 (1A) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
According to Sub-Section 1(A) of Section 176 Cr. P.C., in any death in the custody of the police or in any other custody authorized by the court, an inquiry shall be held by the Judicial Magistrate or the Metropolitan Magistrate.
It is also a mandatory rule that at the time of the inquest, the family members, and friends of the deceased are to be present.
“Why did the police and the district administration fail to comply with this?” Roy asks.
Abnormalities in proceedings
The inquest must be done at the place where the body was declared dead by the doctor. Here the girl was declared dead at Hemtabad Hospital and the inquest was done at the Raiganj Government hospital under Raiganj PS U/D Case No. 361/22.
The inquest report says the girl had reddish injury marks all over the back and right hand and right leg.
Roy says “an independent judicial inquiry must be started over the incident”. He also demands the concerned authorities review the CCTV footage from the station.