Smt. Nilabati Behera Alias Lalit Behera v. State of Orissa And Ors.

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 24/03/1993

COURT: Supreme Court of India

JUDGES: Verma, Jagdish Saran, Anand AS, Venkatachala S

REFERENCE: 1993 AIR 1960


Petitioner: Smt. Nilabati Behera Alias Lalit Behera

Respondent: State of Orissa And Ors

SUBJECT: The judgment revolves around the question of whether damages should be paid to a victim for violation fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution?

FACTS: Petitioner’s son, aged about 22 years was taken from his home in police custody at about 8 a.m. on 1.12.1987 by Assistant Sub-Inspector of Police of the Police Outpost in connection with the investigation of an offence of theft. He was detained at the Police outpost On 2.12.1987, at about 2 p.m. the petitioner came to know that the dead body of her

son was found on the railway track There were multiple injuries on the body and his death was unnatural, caused by those injuries. The petitioner alleged in her letter dated 14.9.1988, which was treated as a writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution, that it was a case of custodial death since her son died as a result of the multiple injuries inflicted to him while he was in police custody and thereafter his dead body was thrown on the railway track.


The Indian Constitution:

  • Article 32: Remedies for enforcement of rights conferred by Part III
  • The right to move the Supreme Court by appropriate proceedings for the enforcement of the rights conferred by this Part is guaranteed
  • The Supreme Court shall have power to issue directions or orders or writs, including writs in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari, whichever may be appropriate, for the enforcement of any of the rights conferred by Part III
    • Article21: No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.
  1. Whether the petitioner’s son died in Police custody due to Police brutality?
  2. Whether the petitioner is eligible for compensation?

The petitioner contended that, her son died due to Police brutality while in custody and thereafter was thrown on the railway track. Several injuries in her son’s body evidently proves the same. She further prayed that; due compensation should be paid to her for the violation of fundamental right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Rebutting the contentions of the petitioner the respondents contended that, the petitioner’s son escaped from Police custody around 3 a.m. on 2.12.1987. Even after a deep search the boy was found nowhere but later came to know that he was found dead in the railway track. The moment the boy escaped from the Police custody the Police authorities are no more responsible and liable to whatever happens to the boy.

Upon hearing the parties, the Court directed the district judge to hold an inquiry. Later when the reports of the inquiry were submitted it was known that the injuries in the petitioner’s son’s body was due to merciless beatings and was not caused by train hit. Further there was no evidence to prove that the Police searched for the boy if at all he escaped from their custody. However, it was clear that, the Police arrived at the crime scene much later. There was handcuff on the hands of the deceased when his body was found on the railway track with rope around it. It is significant that the Report dated 11.3.1988 of the Regional Forensic Science Laboratory mentions that the two cut ends of the two pieces of rope

which were sent for examination do not match with each other in respect of physical appearance. This finding about the rope negatives the respondents’ suggestion that the petitioner’s son managed to escape from police custody by chewing off the rope with which he was tied.

Finally holding the respondents responsible the State of Orissa was asked to pay a sum of Rs.1,50,000 to the petitioner and a sum of Rs.10,000 by way of costs to the Supreme Court Legal Aid Committee.