HC comes down heavily on police, prison officials

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Chennai, May 8 (UNI) Madras High Court came down heavily on Police and Prison Officials in the state for not providing adequate security to prisoners.

Passing orders to pay compensation to the family of notorious rowdy V Lingam, who was brutally murdered inside the Nagarcoil Sub-Jail in April 1996, Justice P Jothimani, rapped the authorities for failing to anticipate a 'sensational strike on Lingam and provide adequate security to him.' In his order, the Judge ruled the state was vicariously liable for death in custody even if the victim had been killed by outsiders breaking into the prison.

Fixing the responsibility for protection of prisoners facing trial squarely on the state, the Judge directed the Tamil Nadu Government to pay a compensation of Rs six lakh to the wife and children of Lingam.

He said a sum of Rs two lakh each should be deposited in the name of Lingam's wife and his two minor children.

In the early hours of the occurrence day, a 20-member gang scaled the compound wall of the jail, overpowered the three prison staff on duty and snatched the keys to his cell.

The heavily-armed assailants then beheaded Lingam and attacked other prisoners. At the end of the attack, the severed head of Lingam was found at a bus stop nearly two km away from the sub-jail.

Lingam's wife Rohini moved High Court seeking Rs ten lakh as compensation on the ground that her husband was killed due to inadequate security.

However, the government pleader submitted there was no provision for compensation to the family of a victim killed by his enemies while in custody.

Noting Lingam was a history-sheeter involved in several grave offences, the pleader said the murder was due to previous enmity.

He also said the incident was unexpected and occurred in spite of utmost vigil by the jail staff.

Holding there was a clear violation of the provisions of the Prisons Act, the Judge said the assistant jailer, heading the security contingent in the sub-jail, was not present when the incident occurred.

''Authorities ought to have anticipated threat to the life of Lingam and should have either provided more security or shifted him to the Central Prison,''the judge added.

Justice Jothimani noted the required number of security personnel was not present.

Hence there was no distinction between the incident and a custodial death, the court said ordering the compensation to the victim's family.

UNI XR SB NS1118

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