So we come to the last episode of the long-running series, Just how did Dinesh die?
His family has decided not to pursue the issue of getting more information on how Dinesh died in a state institution. They had earlier charged that the prison officers had abused their authority and assaulted the 21 year old. He died from positional asphyxiation because a prison supervisor had neglected to oversee a restraint procedure properly. In layman’s language, after Dinesh had an altercation with some prison guards, he was laid out in a cell face-down in such a way that he could not breathe. The supervisor pleaded guilty and paid a $10,000 fine.
It had looked like the last stage for the family in the legal process: They went to the apex court to challenge the state’s assertion that the State Coroner had the power to decide not to resume the inquiry into the youth’s death. The court had reserved judgment. If the court had ruled for the family, what would have happened next? Another counter-appeal from the State? If it had ruled against, some would have accused it of protecting the organs of state. I hope this doesn’t land me in contempt of court…
Now the family has accepted a “settlement’’, which both the family and the Home Affairs ministry said was “at a level which the G indicated from the start it was prepared to consider’’. What strange phraseology. Why the stress on this point? What does it mean? That the family went through all the legal hoops for nothing? That the family wasn’t “silenced’’ with a more substantial settlement? That the family was finally convinced through “back channels’’ that they were barking up the wrong tree when they wanted the other prison guards brought to book?
In any case, it seemed that everything was settled amicably with the indefatigable lawyer for the family, M Ravi, saying that this was “closure’’ for the family. The family has also dropped its civil suit asking for compensation. It isn’t clear if this is part of the “settlement’’. But since the family has accepted the official version of what happened “on a full and final basis, in relation to all claims, issues, disputes and matters whatsoever’’ according to the joint statement, I would suppose so.
In the news reports I have read today, the main point that comes across is this: that the State Coroner had a right to discontinue an inquiry if he was satisfied with the outcome of criminal proceedings on how the death occurred. In the Dinesh case, those criminal proceedings were over in a day because the prison supervisor pleaded guilty.
What they neglected to say was that the coroner had asked the family when the inquiry was later held if they objected to the discontinuation. Apparently, they were badly advised by their first lawyer at that time. They said nothing. So they lost the chance. And it seemed like it was their one and only chance. One lesson though: Get yourself a good lawyer
Well, if the people with the most interest and stake in the case, the family, are satisfied, I suppose the rest of us should be too.
Let’s let Dinesh rest in peace.