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Ians

In a rare judgment, the Calcutta High Court has asked the state government to pay a Nepali citizen Rs 5 lakh as compensation for keeping him behind bars for 41 years without trial.

After the matter came to light because of a human rights organisation, the Calcutta High Court intervened and released the person in March this year. The man, Durga Prasad Timsina alias Dipak Joshi, was arrested on May 12, 1980, from Darjeeling district allegedly for his involvement in a murder case.

Originally a resident of Lumbak village under Phakphokthum Rural Municipality in Ilam, Dipak, then 20 years old, had gone to Magalbare Bazar in Ilam to sell mustard in January 1980. His family members did not know his whereabouts since that day as he did not return home. It was later learned that he had reached Darjeeling where he worked in a tea estate. He was arrested on the charge of murdering a woman -- a charge which is yet to be examined carefully.

According to court records, he went to Darjeeling because a man promised him a job in the army. But the man who promised him the job embroiled him in a murder case. He had been in various prisons since then and may have continued to spend his life in jail but for a prison inmate who learnt of his condition.

Another prisoner, who had been lodged in the Dum Dum central jail, told his friends about Durga Prasad. Word reached HAM radio operators who then contacted Nepal Radio Club, whose members launched a search and finally located his mother Manomaya Devi in Lumbak village in east Nepal. Thereafter, she contacted the Nepalese consulate and pleaded that she be reunited with her son.

Learning about Durga Prasad's predicament, the West Bengal State Legal Services Authority got his mental health condition evaluated. The latter assessed that Durga Prasad's IQ level was on par with that of a 10-year-old, following which a conclusion was drawn that he was unfit to stand trial.

In April this year, the division bench of the then Chief Justice Thottathil B Radhakrishnan and Justice Aniruddha Roy that had taken suo moto cognizance of the case directed that Durga Prasad be handed over to his relative Prakash Chandra Sharma Timsina and facilitate his return with the help of the Nepalese consulate.

The Calcutta High Court then asked the West Bengal government to submit its response on giving him compensation/damages. On December 7, the Counsel for the High Court referred to the West Bengal Correctional Services Prisoners (Unnatural Death Compensation) Scheme, 2019 to submit that the maximum compensation payable under the scheme is Rs 5 lakhs.

The counsel for the State did not dispute the fact and he submitted that the amount can be credited in the account of Dipak Joshi, who is presently in Nepal with his family members, through the Consulate of Nepal.

Hence, the division bench of Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava and Justice Rajarshi Bharadwaj directed the respondent/State to pay Rs 5 lakhs by transferring the amount in the account of Dipak Joshi by following the due process of law within a period of six weeks.

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