Custodial Death of Gangula Tadingi arrested in connection with CMAS (Narayanpatna)

A PUCL ( Bhubaneswar ) Report

Gangula Tadingi, a poor adivasi man, aged about 40, died on 12th April 2010 in judicial custody, reportedly of Tuberculosis. He was an under trial prisoner kept in Koraput District Jail. Tadingi was one of the 133 people arrested in connection with the alleged attack by the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha on Narayanpatna Police Station on 20th November 2009 in which two adivasi people were killed and many more injured in police firing. On the incident of police firing, the PUCL Bhubaneswar had written to the State Human Rights Commission making an appeal for an investigation into the incident. There has been no response from the Commission on this even after six months.

When the news of Tadingi’s death was reported in a section of local media one of the PUCL members from Bhubaneswar unit visited Koraput during 16th-17th April 2010 to find out the circumstances leading to this death in custody. The following report is based on the member’s interviews with the jail authorities i.e., the Superintendent of Jail, the Jail Doctor, the District Collector and the Superintendent of Police Koraput, Dr.Niranjan Das, the TB specialist at the District Hospital Koraput, Mr.Nihar Ranjan Pattanaik and Mr.Gupteswar Panigrahi, lawyers for the deceased Tangidi as well as for other arrested people of Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha and one NGO activist who visited the victim’s village and met his family members. An interview with some of the jail inmates was refused by the jail authorities citing ‘security’ concern.

Version of Sri Brahmananda Sahu, Superintendent of Jail: Gangula Tadingi was admitted into the jail on 17.12.09. To his knowledge he had no health problem at the time of entry. He was detected having TB two months ago, treated by the jail doctor in the jail hospital till 7th April when he was shifted to the District hospital as his condition worsened. He died on 12th April. His family was not informed of his illness and only when he died a message was sent home. On asking why Tadingi’s family was not informed of his illness, even after he was admitted in the district hospital, the Jail Superintendent said he had tried. He said he had sent the message to the Narayanapatna Police Station and the PS did not convey the message to the family.

Tadingi’s family was sent for after he died and after doing the post-mortem the body was handed over to his wife. The body was buried in Koraput itself as the district administration could not provide a vehicle to transport the body to Tadingi’s village.

Tadingi was last produced in the Court on 19.2.10. On asking why he was not produced in the court for nearly two months, when he should have been produced once in every 15 days, the Superintendent said that the jail authorities could do nothing about it, because, for security reasons, unless adequate police force was provided the under trial prisoners couldn’t be taken to the Court.

Version of Dr.L.D.Nayak, the Jail Doctor: At the time of entry into the jail, Gangula Tadingi had reported body ache and was given medicines for that. He had told the doctor that the police had badly beaten him up before he was brought to the jail. When asked whether this matter was recorded in the register the doctor said that it wasn’t as ‘there was no external injury marks’. According to the jail doctor Tadingi was continuously complaining of fever and stomach ache and was diagnosed having Pulmonary Tuberculosis in January 2010. Since then he was treated in the jail hospital till 7th April when he was shifted to the District Hospital . On asking whether Tadingi was kept in a separate room or along with other patients in the same room the doctor said that he was kept in a separate room. When asked why did Tadingi die when TB is curable and when he was saying that he was satisfied with the treatment and the diet provided to him the doctor replied by saying ‘it would be known only from the post-mortem report’. When asked whether he suspected anything which could have been caused by the police beating he replied, ‘possibility of an internal injury can not be ruled out’. The doctor also told that Tadingi was not the only one who had complained of police beating – many people arrested in connection with Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha had complained of the same.

When asked how many TB patients are there in the jail presently the doctor said there is one more TB patient but there might be more also since not all inmates (above 500 people are kept in the jail) are being examined for TB. When asked why aren’t they being examined, he said that unless somebody comes of with symptoms they don’t examine. And, “Tribal people, being illiterate and unaware of the symptoms, would not complain of any illness unless it becomes serious”.

Version of Dr.Niranjan Das, TB Specialist of Koraput District Hospital: Gangula Tadingi was admitted in the District Hospital 7th April, 2010 . His treatment was alright. Then how did he die when TB is curable? “That will be known from the post mortem report”, was his reply. The doctor then mentioned that on 10th April he had recommended the jail authorities to shift Tadingi to the MKCG Medical College Hospital , Berhampur for further diagnosis. But the jail authorities did not shift him. He also developed jaundice and died on 12th April.

Meeting with Rajesh P.Patil, District Collector, Koraput:
The district collector told that he had sent his interim report to the NHRC on the death of Gangula Tadingi within twenty-four hours of the incident. The final report would be sent once the post mortem report is available. When asked for a copy of this report he said, “I can’t give it like that. You apply it through RTI”. When asked whether he found any negligence on the part of the jail authorities in the treatment of Tadingi, he said he didn’t. When asked if there was no negligence in the treatment then how did he die, his reply was, “We have to wait for the post-mortem report”.

On the question of not producing Tadingi in the Court, thereby not giving an under-trial prisoner the opportunity to inform the court whether he was getting proper treatment or not, the collector said that that job is looked after by the court and the jail authorities and the district administration has nothing to do with it. The district administration, on its part, is trying to release on bail most of the under-trial prisoners in Narayanpatna case. They have appointed a nodal officer to look into this.

Did he visit the jail regularly in his role as a member of the District Jail Committee to look into the health and hygienic conditions in the jail and did he know of the illness of Tadingi and enquire into the treatment he was getting? Does he know whether TB patients are kept in separate room/ward or allowed to be kept with other patients? To these questions the collector replied that he visited the jail as a member of the Jail Committee, found the jail conditions alright but did not know of the illness of Tadingi. He said he didn’t know whether TB patients were kept separately from other patients or not.

When asked how the District administration could be so insensitive as not to provide any help to Tadingi’s family to take the body to his village, he said, “Who said that we didn’t help. We had arranged for a vehicle but the driver was not willing to go. You know the situation in Narayanpatna. I was informed about the case at the last moment. We have sanctioned an amount of Rs.10000/- from the family benefit scheme”.

When asked, why is that a civil liberty organization denied access to the jail inmates and, when we are denied access, how can we believe that everything is alright inside the jail walls, he said, “It is for security reasons. There are Maoists in the jail. So there are restrictions in meeting. But if the Superintendent of Police allows you to meet I have no objection”.

Meeting with Shri Anup Sahu, Superintendent of Police, Koraput
On asking why the Narayanpatna police did not communicate the message sent by the jail authorities to the family of Ganguly Tadingi, the SP said, “It’s not easy. I, myself, haven’t been able to communicate with my own people in Narayanpatna police station for the last three days. Roads are being cut off so often. What do you expect in such situation?”

“It is not our responsibility to see whether the under-trial prisoners are produced in the court or not. It is for the court and the jail authorities to see to it”, was the response when told about what the jail authorities were saying about the non-cooperation of the police in production of under-trial prisoners in court.

Meeting with the Lawyers defending Gangula Tadingi:
“Not producing Gangula Tadingi in the court for nearly two months is not an exception; rather it is the norm. There is no doubt that the jail authorities and the police take a casual attitude of their duty to produce the under-trial prisoners at every adjournment. Citing security reasons is only a plea.

“Tadingi was not given proper diet, required for a TB patient, in the jail. He was not kept in a separate room in the jail hospital. He was kept in the same room along with other patients. Other inmates of the jail have reported these facts. We got to know of Tadingi’s illness only when he was shifted to the District Hospital .

“After the death of Gangula Tadingi, all inmates skipped one meal as a mark of solidarity but some of the inmates sat on a hunger strike demanding suspension of the Jail superintendent and the jail welfare officer, compensation for his family. They had other demands as well, such as regular production of the under-trial prisoners in the Court, withdrawal of cases against people associated with Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha and to stop operation green hunt etc. During the hunger strike the jail authorities were reluctant even to allow the lawyers to meet their clients even though it was reported that their conditions were serious.”

Discussion with an NGO activist who visited the village of Gangula Tadingi and met the family members:
Gangula Tadingi was a poor agricultural labourer. He was one of those adivasis who supposedly ‘surrendered’ before the police after the Narayanpatna police firing incident. He was asked by the police to report at the police station once in every week and Gangula had reported twice. When he went to report for the third time on the third week he was arrested. Tadingi’s wife reported that he didn’t have any health problem before the arrest. She was not informed by the jail authorities that her husband was ill and that he had TB. Even when she reached the Hospital Morgue, after getting news of Tadingi’s death, she was not told how he died. The police did not make any arrangement to carry the dead body to their village. The police only offered some money but didn’t help to arrange for a vehicle. Since they didn’t know anybody in Koraput who could help in arranging a vehicle they left it to the police to do whatever it wanted to with the dead body. The family members have heard that the government would give them an amount of Rs.10000/- but are yet to receive it. The family has a job card under NREGS but not a single entry has been made in it. Tadingi’s wife, Kamala Tadingi is in poor health herself and since her husband’s arrest has been struggling to feed herself and her three minor children.

Observations and Demands:

1. The death of under-trial prisoner Gangula Tadingi is unnatural and unfortunate. It is a violation of right to life of the victim.

2. The victim was not produced in the Court, neither physically nor through video linkage, within 15 days interval, which is a mandatory provision under Code of Criminal Procedure and a statutory right of an under-trial prisoner. It has been observed that the other under-trial prisoners of the same jail, associated with Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha, are also not produced in the Court at regular interval.

3. The visits of District Collector and other members of the District jail Committee to prisons to look into the health and hygiene conditions, medical and other facilities appear to be ritual visits. It does not seem to satisfy the objective of the visit of the team to look into the jail conditions in general and the rights of the under-trial prisoners in particular.

4. The family of the victim is in a distressed condition which has been deprived of its sole earning member.

5. Different reports have been collected regarding whether the victim, a TB patient, was kept separately or along with other patients in the jail hospital. It may be recalled that according to one sample study by the NHRC nearly seventy-nine percent of deaths in judicial custody (other than those attributed to custodial violence) were as a result of infection of Tuberculosis.]

6. The district administration did not make necessary arrangements to transport the dead body of Gangula Tadingi from Koraput to his native village for cremation as per the tradition of the community. It is a clear violation of human right of the victim’s family.

7. Not allowing the civil liberty organizations, in the name of security, to interact with any of the jail inmates does not appear to be prima facie valid. It raises the suspicion that the rights of the under-trial prisoners/convicts, and specifically, the basic rights of the inmates relating to health, hygiene and medical facilities are not properly protected.

Considering all the above circumstances with regard to the death of Gangula Tadinga in judicial custody, and the larger issue of the rights of prisoners, we demand that:

1. An independent inquiry, preferably a judicial one, be instituted to look into all aspects that led to the custodial death of Gangula Tadingi and officials responsible be punished accordingly;

2. The family of Ganguly Tadingi must be adequately compensated for the family lost its sole earning member;

3. The mandatory provision as laid down under section 167 (2) (b) of the Code of Criminal Procedure be scrupulously implemented to ensure the production of under-trial prisoners in the Court once in every 15 days. And there should be proper communication between each prisoner and the concerned Magistrate in every case; and

4. All inmates of the jail should be medically examined to ensure early detection of any serious ailment and proper medical attention be provided accordingly.

Released to the Press by Pramodini Pradhan, Convenor, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Bhubaneswar on 22nd April, 2010

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