Justice Bharati Dangre, a single judge, objected to the State government’s position that there is no policy in place to provide compensation to people who have been unfairly jailed.
Novafor Samuel Inoamaobi v. The State of Maharashtra, the Bombay High Court on Friday ordered the Maharashtra government to pay 2 lakh as compensation to a Nigerian national who was wrongfully imprisoned in a case under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act.
A typing error in the forensic analysis report of the confiscated goods was found on Wednesday, and single-judge Justice Bharati Dangre then granted bail to the applicant.
The case was continued for hearing today so that the Public Prosecutor could get guidance on whether or not there was a procedure in place for paying people who were wrongly held.
Additional public prosecutor AA Takalkar informed the Court that the State didn’t have a policy like that in place when it was up for hearing today.
Justice Dangre disagreed with this.
“So, just because there isn’t a policy, you can keep individuals in jail and refuse to pay them compensation? You need a policy when it comes to denying someone their basic rights, she questioned.
The State Counsel was instructed by Justice Dangre to “get up the phone” and begin receiving instructions from the government immediately now.
Takalkar informed the Court after receiving instructions that the State will look into the officer but that no compensation would be given due to a lack of policy.
Justice Dangre questioned if payment could not be made only because a policy did not exist.
She went on to query the need for an investigation given that the concerned forensics officer had acknowledged his own mistake.
Takalkar said that the defendant had a criminal history and that the same officer had also written the report in the other instance. She argued that an investigation was therefore required to ascertain whether the officer had been “placed.”
However, the Court declined to accept the argument.
“The policeman claims he was mistaken. He realised his error after 22 months, so why do you think the officer was planted, she questioned.
The Court ordered the State to reimburse the applicant within six weeks and emphasised that freedom is given to all people, not just Indian citizens.
The statement read, “As an exceptional circumstance, I deem it suitable to direct the state to pay compensation of Rs 2 lakhs within 6 weeks.”
Additionally, it gave the State permission to launch an investigation and, after it was finished, reclaim the money from the responsible authorities.