The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court has directed the Tamil Nadu government to pay ₹3.5 lakh compensation to a man who was illegally kept in prison for 9 months even after his acquittal in a murder case.
The bench comprising Justice Sundar Mohan has directed the state government to pay the compensation amount within 4 weeks and to install KIOSK machines. Justice Mohan has issued directions to include language in the KIOSK machines so that prisoners can have easy access.
The High Court was hearing a petition filed by a father seeking compensation for the illegal incarceration of his son (Chokkar) and for implementing corrective measures to prevent such lapses in the future.
Chokkar and Mayilaraj (another accused in the case) were arrested in under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in connection to a murder in 2012. A local court convicted both of them in the same year and sentenced them to life imprisonment.
Mayilaraj challenged his conviction and sentence before Madras High Court in 2017 and was acquitted on October 31, 2019.
The High Court held that Chokkar had not filed any appeal and is still languishing in prison. Noting that he also deserve the same relief, the Court directed his release.
In the instant case, the father of the prisoner stated that he and his son was not aware of the acquittal order and they came to know about the order in July 2017 after being informed by a lawyer.
Advocate Henri Tiphagne who represented the petitioner stated that Chokkar was released on July 14, 2020, after making a representation to the prison authorities.
Tiphagne added, “Therefore, the nine-month period between October 2019 and July 2020, when he was finally released, amounted to illegal confinement.”
The prison authorities submitted that the High Court didn’t mention Chokkar’s name and it merely mentioned him as “A2” (accused number 2).
However, the bench refused to accept the submission. The bench referred to Rudul Sah case judgment where Supreme Court held that State was bound to repair the damage done by its officers.
“It is seen that this Court, while acquitting A1, Mayilraj, had specifically directed the release of A2 in the case. The respondents cannot say that they did not release the petitioner’s son as he was only referred to A2 and no name was mentioned. The direction issued by this Court has been extracted in the earlier part of this order. When such a specific direction has been issued by this Court, it is the bounden duty of the prison officials to verify as to who is A2 and in any event, if they had any doubt, they ought to have obtained clarification from this Court, immediately. Therefore, that cannot be an excuse for not releasing the petitioner’s son pursuant to the direction issued by this Court on 31.10.2019. Therefore, this Court has no hesitation to hold that the detention of the petitioner’s son from 31.10.2019 to 14.07.2020 is illegal,” the order said.
Additional Public Prosecutor R Meenakshi Sundaram informed the court that disciplinary action had been taken against the concerned prison officials, including the then Superintendent of the Madurai Central Prison.
The bench directed the State to implement the Supreme Court’s directions in Sonadhar v. State of Chhatisgarh on making prisoners aware of their rights, providing legal aid etc.