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Assam: NHRC seeks report on custody death of Nagaland youth, The Telegraph, 30.08.2022

Assam: NHRC seeks report on custody death of Nagaland youth

E. Henveih Phom was arrested along with a woman on August 16 from Anaki area of Mokochung while they were travelling to Gelekey

The National Human Rights Commission.

The National Human Rights Commission.File photo

Umanand Jaiswal   |   Guwahati   |   Published 30.08.22, 04:16 AM

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has sought an action taken report (ATR) from the Sivasagar police in upper Assam on the custody death of a youth from Nagaland on August 21 within four weeks.  

The NHRC sought the ATR on the custody death of 35-year-old E. Henveih Phom hailing from Nagaland’s Mokochung district, based on a complaint filed by the Delhi-based Indigenous Lawyers Association of India (ILAI) on August 25, according to Tejang Chakma, Programmes Coordinator of the ILAI.

The ILAI, established in 2020 is a platform of lawyers belonging to the indigenous communities in the country seeking, among others, to strengthen the enforcement of existing rights of the communities, had sought a judicial probe into the custody death “considering the seriousness” of the case, Chakma said. 

The complaint was filed by ILAI member Amal Kanti Chakma.ADVERTISING

Phom, according to the complaint, was arrested along with a woman on August 16 from the Anaki area of Mokochung by the police attached to the Gelekey PS while they were travelling to Gelekey. Five days later he died under “mysterious” circumstances.

The deceased’s family members have alleged that he was brutally beaten up by the Assam police while in custody, which led to his death. They also claimed that the deceased was physically fit and sound at the time of his arrest. On August 21, they came to know about Phom’s death at the Joysagar Civil Hospital in Sivasagar district.

Phom’s death sparked off protests in Nagaland on August 26, including mass rallies were held across Eastern Nagaland and a candle light vigil in Dimapur, seeking justice for the bereaved family and a probe by a special investigation team.

A police official from Sivasagar told The Telegraph they “can’t” give any ATR because the accused died in judicial custody. He also said the accused was apprehended by a team of Assam Rifles and the army with a .9mm pistol and 9 rounds of ammunition on August 16 and handed over to Gelekey PS, over 30km from Sivasagar town. 

Based on an FIR lodged by an army major, the police registered a case on August 16 and he was produced before a local court on August 17, which sent him to one-day police custody.

“On August 18 he was sent to judicial custody where he died on August 21. He did not die in police custody,” the police official said.         

An official of the Sivasagar district jail told this newspaper that a judicial and a police inquiry have been conducted in the case.

“The accused was bit unwell on August 19 but recovered on August 20 but again became unwell around 3.45am on August 21. We immediately rushed him to civil hospital, about 15-20 minutes from the jail, where he was declared brought dead early morning,” he said.

The post-mortem report said the accused died of heart attack and there was no injury mark on his body, the jail official added.    

The ILAI in its complaint had urged the NHRC to direct the Assam government to, among others, conduct a judicial inquiry into the custodial death under Section 176(1A) of the CrPC which provides for mandatory judicial inquiries in cases of death, rape and disappearance in custody, submit a detailed report, including the post mortem report and CCTV footage of the police station and suspend all the accused police personnel of Gelekey police station.

The ILAI has also sought appropriate legal action including under Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act against the police personnel and provide an interim compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the next of kin of the deceased.

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