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Pay damages to prisoner: court

Mohamed Imranullah S.

MADURAI: The Madras High Court Bench here on Monday directed the State Government to pay a compensation of Rs. 3 lakh, besides Rs.3.41 lakh towards medical expenses incurred by a prisoner who was attacked by a gang of 15 when two armed policemen escorted him to a court in Manamadurai of Sivaganga district with handcuffs on November 30, 2009.

Disposing of a writ petition filed by his wife seeking compensation, Justice K.K. Sasidharan directed the Home Secretary to pay Rs.6.41 lakh with interest at the rate of eight per cent from January 5, 2010, the date when the case was filed. He also imposed a cost of Rs. 10,000 on the government and ordered to pay it within eight weeks.

The judge pointed out that the petitioner's husband M. Velmurugan was the vice-president of Periya Avarangadu panchayat in Sivaganga district. He was not on good terms with panchayat president Pothum Ponnu and her husband Oomadurai. The Tiruppachethi police arrested him on November 16, 2009 for assaulting Oomadurai and lodged him in the Madurai Central Prison.

After 15 days of judicial remand, two armed policemen were deputed to take him from the prison and produce him before a Judicial Magistrate in Manamadurai for remand extension. When the trio were walking down the New Jail Road here to a nearby bus stand, they were waylaid by two cars with armed men who sprinkled chilli powder on the policemen and attacked Velmurugan.

The prisoner sustained 15 grievous injuries and suffered 31 per cent disability. In his counter affidavit filed in reply to the writ petition, the Inspector of Madurai Karimedu police station, which had registered a case related to the attack, said that the gang was engaged by none other than Pothum Ponnu and Oomadurai. He also admitted that Velmurugan was handcuffed at the time of the incident.

Recording the statements, Mr. Justice Sasidharan said: “Since the accused was under handcuff, he was at the mercy of the police. The police in such cases should take all reasonable care to protect the life of the prisoner. They cannot be heard to say that the two policemen failed to use their fire arms… Mere suspension of those police constables would not give relief to the injured.

“The State is expected to protect a prisoner during the period of his judicial custody. The Judicial Magistrate has passed an order remanding the accused. It is the duty of the police to produce the accused before the Magistrate for extension of remand. Therefore, during the transit period, a duty is cast on the police to see that the life of the accused is protected.”

Further, stating that the police were well aware of the enmity between the Panchayat president and the vice-president, the judge wondered how they could take the prisoner by walk on a public road without even providing a vehicle. The police ought to have anticipated the attack in view of the background of the case, he added.

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