“There cannot be any doubt that the responsibility of ensuring the safety of the inmates during the day or in the night as long as they are in the prison is upon the said authorities”: Sikkim High Court

Article 21 of the Indian constitution mandates for Right to life for every human being even if he/she is a convicted criminal. NHRC of India is set up to check any kind of violation of basic human right. In this case of State of Sikkim vs. National Human Rights Commission [W.P.(C) No. 46 of 2021] a writ petition was filed in front of Sikkim high court under article 226 of the Indian constitution. The petitioner had filed the writ petition in response to a show cause notice issued notice dated 13.01.2021 and orders dated 9.6.2021 and 14.9.2021, passed by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in NHRC [Case No. 1/21/3/2020-jcd] relating to the suicide of an under trial prisoner (UTP) Roshan Chettri in District Jail, Namchi, as being arbitrary and illegal.

The facts of this case were that the NHRC issued a show cause notice to the Chief Secretary of the petitioner stating, that the Commission had received intimation on 06.05.2020 from the Jailor, District Jail, Namchi, Sikkim, regarding suicide by the UTP Roshan Chettri in the prison on 04.04.2020. Further, the deceased UTP was a covid-19 positive patient and was in quarantine along with another UTP. On 04.04.2020, at 11 a.m., the deceased tried to commit suicide by hanging on the door of his cell with the help of cloth of the blanket provided to him but that act was noticed by his cell mate who caught hold his body and called out for help. Subsequently, jail authorities arrived and brought him down by cutting the blanket cloth. He was immediately shifted to hospital wherein he died during the treatment. The show cause notice thereafter required the petitioner to show cause as to why monetary compensation of Rs.3,75,000/- should not be recommended under section 18(a)(i) of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, to be paid to the next of kin of the deceased Roshan Chettri.

The petitioner responded to the show cause notice stating that no case of negligence on the part of jail administration was found during the judicial enquiry by the learned Judicial Magistrate, South Sikkim at Namchi. The petitioner is aggrieved that in spite of the dismissal of W.P.(C) No. 02 of 2021 by this court, the NHRC has passed the impugned orders which was barred by the principle of res judicata; that the show cause notice and the impugned orders did not disclose the commission of violation of human rights by the police authorities or the negligence of the police authorities in prevention of violation of human rights. It is further argued that merely because suicide took place during the day, it does not in any manner corroborate or substantiate that there was any negligence on the part of the police authorities.

The learned High court judge, Justice Bhaskar Raj Pradhan relying on various precedence and case laws held that; It is quite evident that the Commission was of the firm view on both facts and law. The fact that the UTP committed suicide during the day at 11:10 a.m. in the jail is not disputed by the petitioner. The NHRC records that “ensuring the safety and security of the inmates who are under care and custody of the prison is one of the prime duties of the authorities concerned”. This cannot be disputed. It is quite obvious that had the jail authorities been vigilant enough, as observed by the NHRC, this incident could have been avoided and the precious life would have been saved. The State is vicariously liable to compensate the next of kin of the deceased UTP. It is not the case of the petitioner that the jail was not under its control when the incident happened in the manner described and admittedly inside the jail. There cannot be any doubt that the responsibility of ensuring the safety of the inmates during the day or in the night as long as they are in the prison is upon the said authorities.

The court held that “Having examined each of the grounds raised by the petitioner, this court is of the considered view that the present writ petition is misconceived and is liable to be dismissed.”

Hence, the writ petition was dismissed.

Click Here to Read Judgment 

Judgment Reviewed By Anshuman Singh. 

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