Sikkim: 2 cops suspended, former SP served show-cause notice in student leader's death

Gangtok: The one-man judicial inquiry committee investigating the long pending case of student leader Padam Gurung believes he died due to asphyxia due to drowning.   

The 22-year-old former President of Namchi Government College’s death on June 27 earlier this year sparked widespread protest in Namchi town in July- August, as the public was not convinced ‘a person could die by falling in a 2-feet deep drain’.

The Sikkim Police had also claimed that Gurung died due to drowning, but the Namchi public argued that the local Police did not carry out their investigation in the case, indicating foul play. 

Subsequently, on July 12, the Sikkim Government constituted a one-man judicial inquiry committee led by former Chief Justice NK Jain of Sikkim High Court. Jain submitted his inquiry report to the Chief Minister Prem Singh Golay on Wednesday. 

On Thursday, Sikkim Chief Secretary VB Pathak, Sikkim Police DGP AK Singh, revealed the findings of the inquiry report in a press conference.  

The Chief Secretary said two Sikkim Police officials, Namchi Police Station Station House Officer Dawa Lhamu Pakhrin and Sub Inspector Siddharth Subba, the investigating officer, have been suspended as per the inquiry committee report. 

Furthermore, the then Namchi District’s Superintendent of Police, Manish Kumar Verma, has been served a show-cause notice for ‘failure in executing his duty’. Former SP Verma was transferred during the investigation in early July. Later, in the shuffling of Sikkim Police officials, even the Namchi SHO Pakhrin was also transferred, only after the inquiry committee was formed. 

Sikkim Police DGP AK Singh shared, “The Sikkim Police will appoint an inquiry officer to take action against the suspended officers and the former SP MK Verma. The inquiry officer will take out the order. They have violated section 174 of Crpc and section 36 of the Sikkim Police manual. They failed to investigate the case on time or reach the place of occurrence on time. However, the lapses in police duty were not the cause of the death of Padam Gurung. The death was accidental and not homicidal as was proven through the postmortem report.” 

However, upon being asked by the media as to what caused the delay in concluding the cause of death, Singh stated, “The postmortem report showed lacerated wounds, which cannot be the cause of the death. There was no internal injury, and the postmortem mentioned the cause of death to be due to asphyxia because of his drowning in the drain. It was due to a judicial committee being formed that we couldn’t conclude the cause of death then”. 

The judicial committee was formed only on July 12, fifteen days after the death when even the final rites of the deceased were conducted. The postmortem, conducted in STNM Hospital in Gangtok, was carried out on June 28, the day after the death of Gurung. 

The one suspect in Gurung’s death, Keshav Thatal, the owner of the restaurant where Gurung was last seen before his death in CCTV footage, has also been charged with IPC sections 188 disobedience to an order lawfully promulgated by a public servant and IPC 336 whoever does any act so rashly or negligently as to endanger human life or the personal safety others. 

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Further, Thatal has also been charged with the Juvenile Justice Act section 77 penalty for giving intoxicating liquor or narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances to a child. Thatal, declared as a suspect by Gurung’s family, has been cleared of the charges of murder, according to the inquiry report. 

The inquiry report has also concluded an ex-gratia of Rs 25 lakh to the next of kin of Gurung. Chief Secretary VB Pathak stated, “Ideally, in the case of an unnatural death, ex gratia is not given, but upon the recommendation of a man inquiry committee on the ex gratia, the State government has accepted the recommendation and the ex-gratia will be given to Gurung’s family soon.”

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