Indian lawmaker's wife held in police custody over maid's death

NEW DELHI (AFP) - An Indian lawmaker's wife was being held in police custody on Tuesday over the death of a maid at the couple's New Delhi home, the police said.

The wife of Mr Dhananjay Singh, a lawmaker from the regional Bahujan Samaj Party, was held for questioning for allegedly torturing her domestic help, who died of severe injuries late Monday.

Reports of impoverished domestic servants being abused by their wealthy employers frequently appear in Indian newspapers.

"Ms Jagriti Singh has been detained in connection with the case, but we are still questioning people involved and investigating the matter," a senior Delhi police official told AFP on the condition of anonymity.

Police said they were waiting to learn the exact cause of death of the maid from a post-mortem report before making any arrests.

Officers got a tip-off on Monday from another servant about the maid, who was alleged to have suffered massive injuries to her head, stomach, arms and chest while working at the house.

The maid's age was not immediately known.

According to news channel NDTV, servants at the MP's house were allegedly often beaten with sticks and kept locked inside.

Mr Dhananjay Singh, who has been accused in two murder cases, denied any wrongdoing over the maid's death.

"I got a call three days back from Jagriti that the maid was injured after she fell from the terrace," the bearded politician told reporters on Tuesday.

"Yesterday evening, I got another call saying she has died, I rushed back from my constituency Jaunpur and called the police."

The case comes just months after a teenage Indian maid was rescued from an upscale Delhi home by police and social rights campaigners, who said she had been slashed with knives and mauled by dogs.

Her employer, a senior executive for a major multinational company, is now on trial on charges of assault and illegal confinement.

In April last year, the police arrested a wealthy couple, both doctors, who locked up their 13-year-old help while they went away on holiday.

She was rescued by firefighters when neighbours spotted her crying on an outside balcony.

India passed legislation in 2006 banning employment of children under 14 in households, roadside eateries and hotels, but the law is widely flouted in the country of 1.2 billion people.