Calcutta HC Orders Payment of Rs. 5 Lakh Compensation to Nepali Man Jiled For 41 Years Without Trial
The Calcutta High Court on Tuesday awarded a sum of five lakh rupees as compensation to a Nepali man who had been incarcerated for over 40 years without trial, before being released in March this year at the court’s direction.
A division bench of the high court, composed of Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava and Justice Rajarshi Bharadwaj, ordered the state of West Bengal to make the payment to the man, identified by the court as Dipak Joshi, within six weeks.
The sum of five lakh rupees was decided since it is the maximum amount payable under the West Bengal Correctional Services Prisoners (Unnatural Death Compensation) Scheme, 2019.
The state government’s counsel did not dispute the order, and agreed to credit the amount to Joshi’s bank account through the Consulate of Nepal.
Joshi (who has been identified in some media reports as ‘Dipak Jaishi’ and ‘Durga Prasad Timsina’) had been arrested in Darjeeling in May 1980 in a murder case. Since then, he had been under detention “may be on the basis of orders of remand” without conclusion of his trial. The inordinate delay was due to waiting for a report from the appropriate authority regarding his mental state, in order to determine whether he was mentally fit to stand trial on the charge of having committed the offence for which he was accused.
As reported by The Wire, Calcutta-based advocate Hirak Sinha, who informed Joshi’s family about his whereabouts and initiated the set of events that eventually led to his release, had examined Joshi’s court records, and found that “various judges had instituted several medical boards over the years [b]ut none of them gave a definite report about his fitness to face trial”.
According to documents provided to the High Court in March by the state legal service authority, the High Court administration and the Consulate General of Nepal, Joshi has the mental capacity of a child of not more than 9-10 years of age.
Later that month, the high court ordered his release from the Dum Dum Central Correctional Home, where he had been lodged since 2005. The court used its power under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code, and Articles 226 and 227 of the Indian Constitution, to do so.
Joshi, who has been variously identified by different media reports as between 60 and 70 years old currently, was delivered to his home in Nepal by his cousin and an officer of the Nepal Consulate. He currently resides in his village along with his nearly 90-year old mother and other family members.
Joshi comes from an indigent family without a steady source of income, and the provincial government of Nepal has already announced that it would bear the cost of his medical treatment.
In an order dated March 22, the high court initiated proceedings for damages or compensation from the state to Joshi for detaining him for over four decades without trial or due process.
Earlier this year, the Anand Bazaar Patrika had reported on Joshi’s incarceration without trial for over 40 years, following which the Calcutta High Court took suo motu notice of the case.
An eminent human rights champion commented on the court’s verdict thus: “The grand sum of approximately Indian rupees 274 per day compensation for wrongful imprisonment for 40 years! About half the day’s daily wage for unskilled labourers! Wah! Compensatory jurisprudence at work.”
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