Death of a political activist in judicial custody

A Report by APDR , West Bengal

Sushanta Shil, a political under-trial prisoner, was jailed in 2011 under alleged robbery and murder. In these nine long years that the case had been dragging in the Sessions Court of Barrackpore Sub-divisional Court (North-24Pargana,West Bengal), the police could produce no evidence against Shil. In between the Calcutta High Court had rejected his bail petition. Despite having a personal set back, Shil remained a committed political activist. In his residential area, he was amiable and was known as a talented musician. Even inside the prison, he was considered as a very popular music teacher among the prison inmates. On the afternoon of Tuesday, 16 th June 2020, we came to know from some sources that Shil had expired though the official communication from the prison authorities and the local police station did not reach his family members till Wednesday 17 th June. Postmortem got over on Thursday 18 th June.
According to the doctors, he suffered from a major stroke, fell and died. We feel that the 67-year-old Shil, who suffered from no significant ailment, expired because of faulty handling of the medical situation by the Dumdum Jail authority. Had the prison authority not sent Shil to the ill-equipped jail hospital and instead had sent him to city hospitals, he could have survived. This medical treatment can be questioned. But what cannot be debated is the inhumane handling of the trial by the police and the judiciary. A political prisoner, arrested under charges that could not be proved by the state in nine years, had to languish in jail and ultimately die there shows the political determination of the state machinery to suppress voices of dissent by one means or the other. We condemn this action of the state and demand that in future no political prisoner should be subjected to such years of imprisonment under trial.

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