Bookie dies in judicial custody in Assam

A man arrested on charges of running a betting racket for the domestic T20 league died in judicial custody in Assam on Sunday, the day the cash-rich tournament ended.

The police in central Assam’s Jorhat town said suspected bookie Palash Barua, a TB patient in his 20s, died at the local medical college hospital.

He had developed health complications at Jorhat district jail where he was lodged for running the betting racket in Mariani town, bordering Nagaland, nearby.

Barua’s family members alleged the police had beaten him up at the Mariani police station lock-up after arresting him on May 18. He was arrested with seven others for running the betting racket worth at least Rs. 65 lakh during this season’s tournament.

On Monday, Barua’s family lodged a complaint against probationary Indian Police Service officer Satyabrata Rai Medhi, Mariani police station officer in-charge Musfiq Ali and the Jorhat district jail superintendent, accusing them of assault and negligence.

Medhi, who has been cracking down on gambling and liquor dens in the area, declined to comment on Barua’s death. A local police officer, however, denied Barua was tortured in custody before being sent to jail soon after his arrest under sections 14 and 15 of Assam Gambling and Betting Act, 1970. “Prima facie, it is a case of natural death,” the officer said.

After Barua’s arrest, his family had sought bail citing his critical health. The plea was turned down, as the jail authorities said he would be taken care of.

“The police were doing a good job of cleaning up the area, but something went wrong after these people were arrested for betting,” All Tea Tribes’ Students Association joint secretary Dhiraj Goala said over phone from Mariani.

Controversy has dogged Mariani since last Friday, when CRPF personnel manhandled local Congress MLA Rupjyoti Kurmi after he allegedly engaged in a war of words with local police officials.

Kurmi and his supporters had blocked the roads to adjoining Nagaland after Naga miscreants had abducted and assaulted two small tea growers of the area.