ACHR PRESS RELEASE

ACHR INDEX: PR/IND/05/2013
Date: 26 February 2013

Maharashtra Chief Secretary summoned to appear personally over woman’s custodial death

New Delhi: Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) today welcomed the latest order of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) directing the Chief Secretary of Maharashtra to appear personally at 3 pm on 13 March 2013 before the NHRC with respect to the complaint filed by ACHR pertaining to the custodial death of Ms Swapna Salvi during police remand at Goregaon East Police Station in Mumbai on 2 April 2010.

The Chief Secretary of Maharashtra was summoned to appear personally at 3 pm on 13 March 2013 as he had failed to comply with previous conditional summons. The NHRC in its order stated: "Conditional summons were sent in the name of Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra, Mumbai to remain personally present before the Commission on 7-2-2013 at 3.00 P.M. along with the requisite report. His personal appearance was to be dispensed with in case the report was received by the Commission on or before 31-1-2013. Neither the report has been received, nor Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra, Mumbai has appeared in person.Let summons be issued in the name of Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra, Mumbai to remain personally present before the Commission on 13.03.2013 at 3.00 PM along with the requisite report."

“This is a clear contempt of the NHRC and a fit case for summoning the Chief Secretary of Maharashtra. The conduct of the Chief Secretary of Maharashtra shows the lack of any concern for protection of women even if death takes places in the custody of the State.” - stated Mr Suhas Chakma, Director of ACHR.

In its submission to the Justice Verma Committee on 26th December 2012, Asian Centre for Human Rights stated that at least 45 custodial rapes took place between 2002 and 2010 as per complaints registered by the NHRC. The law enforcement personnel enjoy virtual impunity as no legal proceedings or suit can be initiated without the prior sanction of the conerned Government as per Section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code or Section 6 of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 and prior sanction is seldom given.

The deceased, Ms. Swapna Salvi, a resident of Gujarat, was arrested by the Ahmedabad police on 30 March 2010 in connection with a cheating case. On 31 March 2010, Ms Salvi was handed over to the Mumbai Police who produced her before the court that remanded her to police custody till 5 April 2010. The deceased was detained at the Goregaon East Police Station. However, on 2 April 2010, the deceased was found hanging from the ceiling fan in the ladies room of the police station.

The police claimed that the deceased committed suicide by using her duppatta when a female constable keeping an eye on her went outside the room. Further, the police claimed that the deceased had confided with the female constable that she was aghast at being arrested and was nervous about facing her family.

ACHR filed a complaint with the NHRC on 5 April 2010. Among others, it requested the NHRC to direct the state government of Maharashtra to order a judicial inquiry into the custodial death; submit the post-mortem report of the deceased; to take legal action against any personnel found involve in the custodial death including suspension of the Officer-in-Charge of the Goregaon East Police Station and interim compensation of Rs. 10 lakhs to the next of kin of the deceased. However, the State Government of Maharashtra has not been cooperating with the NHRC. [Ends]