NHRC calls Gujarat authorities callous, irresponsible

India has not been taking cases of custodial deaths seriously and hence the attitude of concerned authorities towards such cases reflects their general apathy. Accustomed to not being held accountable for custodial deaths, these officials have defied judicial orders in Gujarat now.


In July 2017, over two years ago, occurred another one of the many custodial deaths that take place in Indian prisons every year. This incident took place in Amreli, Gujarat where a 30 year old Dalit man was arrested and eventually remanded to judicial custody by the Magistrate and within 3 days of his arrest he was brought to the hospital where he died. The police claim that death was caused due to epileptic fits, did not match with the post mortem report that reported head injury as cause of death. Amidst allegations by the family that the inmates were behind the death of Jignesh Sondarva, a complaint was filed before the NHRC for appropriate action.

The prison authorities, the police department as well as the Magistrate have however, failed to comply with the summons issued by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), which led the commission to take the drastic step of issuing unconditional summons.

Background of the case

A complaint was filed by Dalit activist Kantilal Parmar before the NHRC and demanded Rs. 1 crore compensation for the victim’s family and government job for the younger brother of the victim. The background of the case is that 30-year-old Jignesh Sondarva, a resident of Dungar village in Amreli, was picked up by a team of Dungar Police on July 12, 2017, in a case pertaining to allegations around the violation of Prohibition Act. He was sent to judicial custody by Rajula Judicial Magistrate after being presented before him. Within 3 days of his arrest, the family was called to the hospital where he died under suspicious circumstances. The post mortem stated that death was caused due to head injury and the family alleged that while he was in jail the inmates bashed his head repeatedly against the wall which led to his death.

Proceedings before NHRC

The NHRC had issued conditional summons to the Inspector General (IG) of Prisons, Prison Headquarters, Govt. of Gujarat, Gandhinagar to file the requisite report by September 6, failing which the IG was directed to submit the report in person on September 13. The IG, Prisons did not follow through on any of the directions and failed to comply with the orders of the NHRC. Instead a letter dated August 14, 2019 was sent by the Amreli principal district judge to the Commission which stated that a magisterial enquiry under section 176 CrPC on the custodial death was pending.

Thereafter the NHRC issued unconditional summons not only to the IG, Prisons but also to the District Magistrate, the Superintendent of Police, and the AmreliDistrict Jail Superintendentto appear before it on November 26 along with the below mentioned documents.

The NHRC sought from the IG prisons documents and reports such as (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 and (7) Health Screening report of victim at the time of entry in Jail and (8) final cause of death of the victim.

The Commission further said that, “The Commission is pained at the callous, irresponsible and nonresponsive attitude of the concerned authority. That 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 within the meaning of section 176 and section 177 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1960).”

The NHRC, thus took a very serious view of the incident and afforded one more opportunity to the authorities by issuing unconditional summons which is being seen as an unprecedented move by the NHRC. The Commission also deemed that the inaction of the authorities in the matter violated the human rights of the victim/complainant.


The NHRC’s mandate is governed by a few sections of the CrPC which are applicable to it and accordingly, under section 13 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, Chapter XXVI of the CrPC is applicable to the Commission. The Commission has the power to initiate contempt proceedings against such authorities and take action accordingly.

IG Prisons SK Gadhvirefused to comment on the matter, while police and administrative officials in Amreli claimed that they already submitted a magisterial inquiry report and details of postmortem of the deceased man, around 10 days ago.

India’s troubled past of custodial deaths

According to NCRB’s data for the period between 2001 and 2016, Gujarat reported 180 cases of custodial deaths but there were no convictions of policemen in these cases, till date. Uttar Pradesh happened to be the only state with more than 100 custodial deaths to have convicted at least 17 policemen for custodial deaths. This is definitely a scary and appalling piece of data.

The Times of India compiled this data as follows:

custodial deaths

Source: Times of India

Among the ‘Other states and UTs’, most of them did not convict policemen for custodial deaths, the only exceptions being Chhattisgarh and MP with four convictions each and Odisha with one; this is out of 538 cases of custodial deaths in these other states and UTs.

This data throws some light on how callous the attitude has been of the executive as well as the government in bringing justice to cases of custodial death. This also probably explains the attitude of the Gujarat police and prison authorities towards the summons issued by NHRC in this case. Given the ignorance of these authorities towards human rights, the Human Rights Commissions, both at the State and the Central level remain the few statutory bodies that one can depend on to defend human rights and crack a much-needed whip on such authorities from time to time.

Also Read:

‘Custodial death’ of Dalit youth: Gujarat Police give NHRC summon another miss
180 custodial deaths in Gujarat in 16 years, no cop punished
NCRB Reports Show Statistics on How Many Breathe Their Last in Custody
How do you police the police?
SHRC- New ray of light for victims of police brutality?
CJP moves NHRC in Sultanpur Rape Case




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