Disarray in Odisha over custodial violence cases

Odisha is burning over custodial torture cases in Puri, Birmitrapur and most recently, Pipili

custodial deaths

The Odisha Police have come under sharp attack after alleged custodial torture and death cases in different parts of the state. In Puri, one K. Ramesh was allegedly hacked to death after being picked up by a Baseli Sahi Police personnel for some criminal charges against him. After an apparent scuffle with the Police, he was taken to a Hospital on November 19, where he was declared ‘brought dead’ by the doctors.

Having chilling similarities with the Hathras rape and murder case of a Dalit teen, The Wire reported that the deceased had injury marks on his body and much to his family’s dismay, the Police cremated his body at Swargadwara in the afternoon, in Puri without informing them.

Another victim identified as Tariq Salim, a resident of Birmitrapur town, was allegedly picked up by the Police and taken into different locations for investigation in connection with the kidnap of a businessman. The Indian Express reported that his health deteriorated when he was rushed to Rourkela Government Hospital (RGH) only to be declared dead, early morning on November 19.

Police claimed he ‘suddenly’ fell ill and the allegation of police excesses was untrue. Sources close to the deceased youth’s family told Indian Express that Tariq was picked up from Vedvyas area of Rourkela on Wednesday (November 18) and tortured.

Amid huge public outcry over the brutalisation of two youths, a new instance of police torture has come to light from Pipili. Six men were admitted to Cuttack’s SCB Medical College and Hospital on November 21 with several injury marks on their body.

Apprehended by the police at Pipili Police Station, the parents of all six accused have alleged that they were mercilessly beaten up by officers since November 13 and their staged dharna (protest) was joined by other Congress party members.  

Investigation underway

The Odisha High Court, in Sarat Kumar Rayaguru vs State of Odisha and Ors (W.P [C] No. 32058 of 2020) through its Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Mohammad Rafiq and Justice Biswanath Rath has taken cognisance of the atrocity against K. Ramesh.

According to the media, the Bench directed the State counsel Subir Palit to take instructions from the government and file an affidavit on the matter. A Puri-based lawyer Sarat Kumar Rayguru filed a public interest litigation seeking court-monitored investigation, immediate action against police officials involved in the unlawful incident and compensation to the family of the deceased. This matter is up for hearing today.

In addition to the Court, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has also sought an action taken report from the State Chief Secretary and DGP within four weeks. This includes a detailed report covering all aspects leading to the death of the accused, time and place of occurrence as well as the reason for his arrest or detention, reported Outlook.

A press release has also been put out in the public domain by the Odisha Police in the Pipili torture case. It states, “An enquiry by Abhay, DIG of police, Central Range, Cuttack has been ordered into the allegations.”

The Mahila Congress State secretary Nirupama Patra has condemned the police excess and demanded action against the culprits along with BJP District President Arsit Patnaik who has demanded a thorough probe into the matter.

The BJP has moved the Odisha Human Rights Commission on the two deaths in Puri and Birmitrapur, while party national spokesperson Sambit Patra has also moved the National Human Rights Commission in the same regard.

Damage control

In order to rule the roost over the current situation, the media has reported on the Odisha State Government’s decision of asking Akhileshwar Singh, Superintendent of Police, Puri to report to State Police headquarters and sending Superintendent of Police of Sambalpur K. Vishal Singh to take charge of the Puri District.

After Tariq Salim’s demise early Thursday (November 20) morning, locals encircled the Police Station at Birmitrapur around 8:30 am, demanding suspension of police officers concerned and booking them on murder charges with compensation to the bereaved family.

DIG of Police (Western Range) Kabita Jalan and Sundargarh SP Sagarika Nath rushed to the police station to stop the situation from intensifying any further. In her brief reaction, the DIG said the meeting was underway with local community leaders and eminent persons to restore normalcy and take action against the erring police officers.

Congress legislature party leader Narasingha Mishra has accused the Naveen Patnaik Government of protecting their State actors and alleged, “It seems the Odisha government is following the modus operandi of Uttar Pradesh government”, as per The Telegraph reports.

Recent judicial precedent

SabrangIndia had reported on an Odisha High Court judgement where the Bench sentenced two cops in a custodial violence and death case on November 9. (Pravat Chandra Mohanty and Ors v State of Orissa, CRA No. 207/210 of 1988).

Justice S.K Sahoo had observed that, “Custodial violence on a person which may sometimes lead to his death is abhorrent and not acceptable in a civilised society and it is a crime against humanity and a clear violation of a person’s rights under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.”

“Police excesses and maltreatment of detainees, under trial prisoners or suspects tarnishes the image of any civilised nation. Stern measures are required to be taken to check the malady against those police officials who consider themselves to be above the law and bring disrepute to their department, otherwise the foundations of the criminal justice delivery system would be shaken and the common man may lose faith in the judiciary”, he added.

After witnessing such uproarious events in a month’s time, sterner action is expected to be taken to remedy such behavioural changes of police personnel acting in executive overreach.


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