Telangana High Court orders inquiry into Catholic Dalit woman’s death in police custody
by Nirmala Carvalho

An inspector and two officers involved in the case have been suspended. Mariyamma was taken into custody in connection with the theft of 200,000 rupees, reported by a local parish. For Bishop Sarat Chandra Nayat, the police must investigate, “but life has to be protected.”

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – The Telangana High Court has ruled in the case of a Catholic Dalit woman who died in police custody in Addagudur district.

In accepting a complaint filed by the People's Union for Civil Liberties, the court ordered a judicial inquiry whilst the inspector and two officers involved in the case have been suspended.

On 15 June, the police stopped a woman named Mariyamma along with her son to question them about a theft of 200,000 rupees (about ,700) reported by the parish priest of their village of Komatlagudem.

According to the lawyer representing the woman and her son, both were tortured for three days. The young man said he was beaten with a bamboo cane and a strap and has wounds on his body to prove it. His mother was also beaten.

Police defend themselves by saying the woman was ill on the night of 17 June and was taken to the hospital where she died the next day.

The court instructed the magistrate of the town of Alair to investigate, and authorised, if necessary, a second post-mortem on the woman's body.

The court also requested CCTV footage from the police station, but the lawyer representing the Telangana government said that the station where the incident took place was not equipped with such a device, this despite an Indian Supreme Court order requiring it.

Bishop of Sarat Chandra Nayat of Behrampur waded into the matter, also calling for an inquiry into Mariyamma's death.

For the prelate, who heads the Office for Scheduled Caste and Backward Classes of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI), death in police custody is a serious matter.

“If there is an accusation of theft, the police must carry out a proper investigation, and the court will decide guilt or innocence, but life has to be protected. Police are supposed to take care of law and order,” he noted.

Whilst extending his “condolences to the bereaved family,” Bishop Nayat added that “there should be a thorough investigation into Mariyamma's death and compensation should be given. The government must book those responsible for the woman’s death under the SC/ST Atrocities Act.”