State duty-bound to provide medical treatment to prisoners, says Bombay HC; awards Rs 10 lakh compensation to family of dead undertrial

The court held that there had been total negligence and lapse on the part of  jail authorities and the police guard in providing adequate, effective and proper medical treatment to the undertrial prisoner, which resulted in his death.


THE Bombay High Court awarded compensation of ten lakh rupees to the family of a person who died in prison as an undertrial for want of proper medical treatment, observing that the duty of the State to provide medical treatment to prisoners and treat them with human dignity needs no affirmation.

A division bench of Justices Anuja Prabhudessai and R.M. Joshi directed on March 2 that the compensation should be paid within four weeks of its judgment, failing which the amount would carry interest at the rate of six per cent per annum. from the date of the order till the date of payment.

The bench clarified that the state government would be at liberty to recover the compensation amount from the concerned officers who were negligent in providing medical aid to the undertrial prisoner.

The bench was ruling on a petition filed by the parents, the wife and the children of the deceased undertrial, Pratap Kute. The petition sought compensation of Rs. 90 lakhs for the loss of Kute’s life due to negligence of the jail authority.

Kute had been arrested on January 16, 2012, for offences punishable under Sections 143 (punishment for membership of unlawful assembly), 147 (punishment for rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 326 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means), 452 (house-trespass after preparation for hurt, assault or wrongful restraint) and 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation) read with Section 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object) of the Indian Penal Code. He was remanded to magisterial custody on January 23, 2012.

The petition alleged that Kute was suffering from spondylosis and severe pain. He filed an application before the Magistrate’s court to shift him to Government Hospital, Beed for proper medical treatment. However, the same was dismissed with observations that the Superintendent of Jail was able to take proper care of and provide medical facilities to Kute.

Kute’s family alleged that he was not given any treatment despite his request at the initial stage, and it was only after his condition deteriorated that he was shifted to Government Hospital, Beed. The doctors at Beed advised shifting him to the Government Medical College, Aurangabad for further treatment, which was never done. The concerned police constable made an endorsement that he was not able to shift Kute to Government Medical College, Aurangabad, and would have no complaint in case of any untoward incident/risk to the life of Kute. Kute passed away on February 27, 2012.

The state government opposed the petition, contending that though doctors regularly visited the jail, Kute had not complained to them or the jail authorities about his ailment. It was further argued that Kute was shifted to the hospital immediately after he complained of ill-health and was given necessary medical treatment. The state contended that there were three inquiries, including a magisterial inquiry, one by the Crime Investigation Department as well as one by the National Human Rights Commission and that all the authorities had recorded a finding that Kute’s was not a case of custodial death due to ill-treatment.

Responding to the arguments, the high court bench held that the record revealed that Kute was not provided any treatment while he was in jail from February 7, 2012, till the date he was shifted to the hospital.

All that the jail authorities had done was that they collected the blood sample of the deceased … on 10/2/2012, a report of which was received after his death. The contentions of the [Additional Public Prosecutor] that the deceased … ought to have approached the doctor and narrated about his sickness cannot be accepted“, the bench opined.

The bench underscored that Kute had approached the Magistrate and had complained about ill health. The jail authorities were, therefore, well aware that he was having some sort of ailment.

Having opposed the application on the ground that all the facilities were available in the jail, it was the duty of the Superintendent of Jail and all the others concerned to ensure that necessary medical facility was provided to the deceased…”, the bench held.

The bench further noted from the record that even after Kute was shifted to the hospital, the doctor on duty had informed the on-duty constable that he had to be shifted to the Government Medical College & Hospital, Aurangabad. However, the said constable had made an endorsement that for some reason, he was unable to shift Kute to Government Medical College & Hospital, Aurangabad, and that he would have no grievance if the life of Kute was in danger.

This endorsement itself reflects the callous and insensitive mindset of the police authorities as well as the jail authorities“, the bench noted.

The present case reveals, according to the bench, that despite the request of Kute, an undertrial prisoner, to provide medical treatment, no timely medical aid was provided to him except for collecting his blood sample, the report of which was received after his demise.

This fact has not been considered in the magisterial inquiry report“, the bench further observed.

The bench thus held that there had been total negligence and lapse on the part of the jail authorities in providing adequate, effective and proper medical treatment, and on the part of the police guard on duty who declined to shift Kute to the Government Medical College, Aurangabad, which resulted in his death.

Click here to view the Bombay High Court’s full judgment.

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