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Rs 3 lakh for spending 54 years in prison
January 09, 2006 22:18 IST
Last Updated: January 09, 2006 22:21 IST
The Supreme Court on Monday awarded a compensation of Rs 3 lakhs to a septugenarian from Assam, who, as an undertrial, spent 54 years in a mental asylum. It also ordered the state goverment to conduct a high-level inquiry into the whole issue.
Machal Lalung was arrested at the age of 23 in 1951 under Section 326 of the Indian Penal Code for voluntarily causing grievous injuries. However, he spent his life as an undertrial languishing in Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi Mental Hospital, Tezpur before being released this year. Lalung belongs to Mikir Chuburi village in Morigaon district of Assam.
Ironically, his case never came up for hearing even once in the last five decades. Moved by his story, the court had sought the factual position of the case from the Assam Government.
Perusing the materials placed before it, a Bench of Chief Justice Y K Sabharwal, Justice C K Thakker and Justice R V Raveendran directed the state government to consitute a panel to file a preliminary report on the incident within two months.
The court said the inquiry will be conducted by a judicial officer nominated by the Chief Justice of the Guwahati High Court and a secretary-level officer named by the state government.
The Bench said it will formulate guidelines after receiving report so that no citizen will have to suffer the plight undergone by 77-year old Lalung.
Discharging his bail bond, as Lalung spent more time languishing as an undertrial than the punishment prescribed in the statute for the alleged offence, the court, as an interim measure, also directed the Asssam Government to give him Rs 1,000 per month to meet his expenses and free treatment and medicine throughout his life in government hospitals.
The court further said out of the Rs 3 lakh, which will be deposited by the state government in a post office or a nationalised bank in Lalung's name, only Rs 1 lakh could be withdrawn.
A lettter was written to the Chief Justice of India on the whole incident and the Court had treated it as a petition. Advocate F I Chaudhary, a resident of Assam, had said he came to know about Lalung from a news-report and was willing to assist the Court or anybody who will come forward to take up his case.
"As a young lawyer, I believe, in complicated issues like this, the judiciary can only award this man a compensatory peace and give back his forgotten smile before he dies," the advocate had written in the letter.