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NHRC's 'unconditional' summon to Gujarat jail authorities on Amreli custodial death

Jigneshbhai Sondarva
By Our Representative
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), taking what it calls “a very serious view” , has issued “unconditional summons” to the Inspector General (IG) of Prisons, Government of Gujarat, to appear before the NHRC on November 8, 2019 at 11.00 am, for hearing on the mysterious custodial death of Jigneshbhai Sondarva, who belonged to Dungar village and was aged 30, in Amreli jail in June 2017.
Also issuing unconditional summons to the district magistrate, the superintendent of police, and the superintendent jail, Amreli district, an NHRC notice dated September 26, 2019, said, previously, on July 11, 2019, it had issued “conditional summons” to these officials to file a report on or before September 6, 2019 regarding the action taken against those accused of causing the custodial death.
As this was not done, the IG of Prisons, Gujarat, was asked to appear in person before the Commission along with the action taken report on September 13, 2019. However, says NHRC, the IG of Prisons “did not file the requisite report, nor did he appear before the Commission on September 13, 2019, but sent across a letter dated August 14, 2019 filed by the principal district judge, Amreli, informing that an magisterial enquiry under section 176 CrPC on the custodial death was is pending under chief judicial magistrate, Amreli, AH Makrani.”
Issuing the notice, NHRC said, the IG of Prisons and other authorities “cannot escape from filing the requisite reports and they are directed to furnish the requisite reports and documents in the death case of inmate of the district jail Amreli”, even as accusing them of “callous, irresponsible and non-responsive” attitude.
The reports sought included (1) complete medical treatment record, (2) inquest report, (3) magisterial enquiry report, (4) VC/CD of post-mortem report, (5) action taken report on the magisterial enquiry report, (6) final outcome/status of departmental action or criminal proceedings against the offenders, (7) health screening report of the victim at the time of entry in jail and (8) final cause of death of the victim.
Sondarva's younger brother and mother
NHRC said, the “concerned authorities are bound to submit the action taken report regarding the allegations and grievances of the complainant under section 13(2) of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, and they are legally bound to furnish the required information.” It added, “non-action and inaction in the matter” would be deemed to mean that these officials “have further violated the human rights of the victim/complainant”.
Providing details of the case on the basis of the complainant filed by Kantilal Parmar, an Amreli-based human rights activist, NHRC said, Sondarva was arrested on June 12, 2017 by the Dungar Police Station in a case of violation of Prohibition Act (alcohol) and was presented before the Rajula Judicial Magistrate First Class (JMFC), where he was denied bail.
Sondarva was kept in Amreli sub-jail under judicial custody, and till this point, the victim was healthy and fit. But “inside the jail, he was beaten up by the inmates and the police. This is alleged by the relatives of the deceased. His arrest had not been informed to his relatives.”
“Even when he became unconscious, due to being thrashed and his head being smashed against the wall and was admitted to Amreli Civil Hospital, his relatives were not informed. Only after his death, his relatives were informed on June 15, 2017”, the complaint was quoted as saying.
“The authorities are trying to pass it off as death due to fits but the post-mortem report states injury to the head as cause of death. FIR has been lodged against four inmates and they have been arrested from the jail”, NHRC notes.

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