New Delhi: Slamming the Chhattisgarh police for torturing an Ayurvedic doctor Mehmood Nayyar Azam for taking up the cudgels against coal mafia in the state, the Supreme Court on Friday awarded a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the victim who had suffered the agony 21 years ago.
A bench of justices K S Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra, while observing that humiliation or trauma caused to the accused in police custody, "corrodes the concept of human dignity," directed the state to recover the compensation amount from the erring officers in equal proportions.
"There is no shadow of doubt that any treatment meted to an accused while he is in custody which causes humiliation and mental trauma corrodes the concept of human dignity.
"The majesty of law protects the dignity of a citizen in a society governed by law. It cannot be forgotten that the Welfare State is governed by rule of law which has paramountcy.
"It is imperative to state that it is the sacrosanct duty of the police authorities to remember that a citizen while in custody is not denuded of his fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution, "Justice Misra, writing the judgement, said.
The apex court passed the judgement while allowing the appeal filed by Dr Azam challenging the refusal of the state government to grant him compensation even after his case was referred to it by the High Court and the Supreme Court.
Dr Azam was abused and humiliated in Pondi Police Station West Chirmiri Collierya on September 24, 1992, abused and assaulted at the behest of mafia elements.
To humiliate him, the cops got him photographed with a placard which read "Main Dr M N Azam Chhal Kapti Evam Chor Badmash Hoon".(I, Dr. M N. Azam, am a cheat, fraud, thief and rascal).
It was circulated among the general public.
The apex court said it needs no special emphasis to state that when an accused is in custody, his fundamental rights are not abrogated in toto.
"His dignity cannot be allowed to be comatose. The right to life is enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution and a fortiorari, it includes the right to live with human dignity and all that goes along with it.
"The restrictions imposed have the sanction of law by which his enjoyment of fundamental right is curtailed but his basic human rights are not crippled so that the police officers can treat him in an inhuman manner.
"On the contrary, they are under obligation to protect his human rights and prevent all forms of atrocities," Justice Misra said.
The bench expressed surprise as to how in a country governed by rule of law and where Article 21(liberty) of the Constitution is treated to be sacred, the dignity and social reputation of a citizen has been affected.
Quoting the book "Kaplan & Sadock’s Synopsis of
Psychiatry", dealing with the impact of torture, the apex court said "intentional physical and psychological torture of one human by another can have emotionally damaging effects comparable to, and possibly worse than, those seen with combat and other types of trauma."
The bench said any psychological torture inflicts immense mental pain and such suffering at any age in life can carry the brunt and may have nightmarish effect on the victim.
"Regard being had to the various aspects which we have analysed and taking note of the totality of facts and circumstances, we are disposed to think that a sum of Rs. 5.00 lacs should be granted towards compensation to the appellant and, accordingly, we so direct.
"The said amount shall be paid by the respondent state within a period of six weeks and be realized from the erring officers in equal proportions from their salary as thought appropriate by the competent authority of the State," the bench added.