Lawyer’s post-mortem points to police torture (Lead)

May 15th, 2008 - 1:00 am ICT by admin  

Allahabad, May 14 (IANS) The Allahabad High Court lawyer who had been jailed in a contempt of court case and died in a hospital while in police custody had injury marks on his body, including his head, the post-mortem report stated Wednesday. S.K. Awasthi died Tuesday at the S.R.N. Hospital here. His parents have alleged that that he was tortured while in jail and chained to the bed at the hospital.

The report stated that the lawyer died due to “head injury septicemia”, which means he had sustained injuries during his stay in jail. There were seven injury marks on his body, the report revealed.

Hospital chief medical officer Rajni Kant Gupta told IANS that Awasthi was admitted to the hospital May 6 for acute psychosis but gradually developed renal failure.

The anger among lawyers over Awasthi’s death snowballed Wednesday as they ransacked the courtroom number 34 of Justice B.S. Chauhan, who had imposed the one-month contempt of court sentence on April 22.

Following this, Chief Justice H.L. Gokhale ordered the high court premises to be vacated. Heavy police force, including the Rapid Action Force, was deployed to keep the agitating lawyers at bay.

The protests spilled to other places with lawyers going on the rampage in state capital Lucknow and staging demonstrations in Varanasi.

In Lucknow, the agitated lawyers fought a pitched battle with the police when the latter tried to prevent them from demonstrating in front of the Collectorate.

Police cane-charged the lawyers as they proceeded towards the Collectorate destroying the hoardings publicising the policies of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati.

The lawyers also manhandled some fire department officials when the latter doused an effigy of Mayawati being burnt by them.

It was only after two hours the situation was brought under control after a dialogue between Lucknow Senior Superintendent of Police Akhil Kumar and some senior lawyers.

Allahabad Bar Association president V.C. Mishra told IANS that Awasthi was sentenced on charges of levelling allegations of prejudice and favouritism on the judge in the court.

“He also used to expose corruption in the judiciary,” Mishra said. When he was sent to jail, he was medically fit, he said.

A meeting of the Allahabad High Court Bar Association chaired by Mishra later demanded that judges should be stripped of power to initiate criminal contempt proceedings.

The lawyers demanded transfer of judge B.S. Chauhan and action against police and jail officials who allegedly tortured Awasthi in custody.

Meanwhile, P.C. Saxena, the principal of the M.L. Medical College to which the hospital Awasthi was lodged in is attached, told IANS, “The hospital staff did not chain him. It was the cops on duty who did.”

He said the police did not do so in front of the hospital authorities but they “chain a patient to the bed when they want to go out somewhere”, Saxena said.

Earlier in the morning, the cremation of Awasthi was performed at Rasoolabad Ghat in the presence of chief justice H.L. Gokhale and a huge crowd of several other judges and lawyers were present.

The Allahabad High Court Tuesday evening ordered an inquiry by a sitting district judge into the death. Notices were also issued to the jail superintendent of the Naini Central Jail, seeking an explanation to the circumstances leading to Awasthi’s death.

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