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PUCL, April 2004

Custodial violence and the cover up - Delhi police style

-- By Pushkar Raj, General Secretary, PUCL-Delhi

[ Who says begaar and beating is illegal, meet Delhi police Click]

In a case of custody violence the Gulabi Bagh police station under North Delhi District decides to teach a lesson to a young man by breaking his hand and rendering him incapable of earning his livelihood for almost two months. And when their atrocity was exposed the police tried to brand him as a thief. Further more the police framed up false charges against the victim besides digging up unsubstantiated cases against him in other police station of Delhi.

The incident
Amit Kumar Son of Mahender Pal, aged around 24, married with a kid of two years is a part of a joint family, an elderly mother and father and an elder married brother. He is matriculate, healthy, smart , uses English sentences in conversation and repairs electronics gadgets at home for a living. He earns about Rs. 4000 per month.

Amit alighted from DTC bus near Gulabi Bagh drain bus stop in North Delhi on 5th march 2004 at about 7:15 pm. He got into a scuffle with a man while alighting from the overcrowded DTC bus. The incident attracted attention of passing by police men who asked the duo to accompany them to police station where the matter would be settled.

Victim’s version
PUCL contacted Amit for his version. According to Amit , when the police men took two of them to the Gulabi Bagh police station the SHO of police station Mr. Hari Darshan Dhaiya was sitting in the compound of police station just outside his office. The man who was the party to the quarrel spoke to SHO while Amit waited in front of duty room of the police station. After about ten minutes the SHO said to one of the constables, `call SI Manoj Tiwari’. The SI Came. The SHO said to him `oopeer le jao aur iski badmashi utaro’, (take him upstairs and set him right). The other man left the police station by now. Amit was taken to a room upstairs.

Here, says Amit, along with another constable, whose name he does not know, SI Manoj Tayagi beat him up black and blue. The beating continued for an hour. They asked him to sign on plain papers to which he refused. As per the victim, then they became more furious and beat him with a `glass stick’. In the process one blow struck him just in middle of thumb and palm fracturing the hand.

At around 12 o’clock the police took him to Hindu Rao hospital. They told the doctor that the victim was alighting from the bus and fell down and broke his hand. The junior doctor on duty initially did not buy the argument but finally gave in. A M.L.C was registered, plaster was done and they came back at police station at about 2 in morning.

According to the victim his `Jama Talashi’ (search for possessions) was taken when he came back. According to him he was carrying Rs. 706. But only Rs. 6 were shown on his person. At 3 he was removed to Sarai Rohilla, an adjoining police station as Gulabi Bagh police station does not have night stay arrangement for alleged offenders.

Next day Amit was presented in court no. 283 of judge Gurdeep Singh Saini at Tees Hajari District Court. Police instructed the victim to narrate before the judge story of falling from the bus. The judges could see that the victim was under apparent intimidation. He asked him to meet him alone in his chamber. In the chamber Amit told the judge what had actually happened to him i.e. about police beating. While talking to judge he began vomiting. On this the judge released him on personal bond and ordered him to be taken to the Hindu Rao Hospital for treatment.

The police version
PUCL contacted the SHO of the concerned police station. The SHO Mr. Hari Darshan flatly denied that Amit was ever brought to the police station. `Where is the question of him being beaten, tortured and breaking of hand when he never came to the police station’, he asked.

The police officer further added that a theft took place in the area under the local police station at the residence of some Mr. Gupta in the night of 5th of March 2004. While the theft was being carried out Mr. Gupta happened to arrive at home. The thief became panicky and jumped from the III floor of the house. According to the police Mr. Gupta did not see the thief. He however reported the matter to the police. On his complaint the police registered a zero FIR.

After two days a Hindi daily published the report on Amit’s beating and torture at the police station. According to the SHO on seeing this report and the photo of Amit accompanying it, Mr. Gupta again came to the police station next day. He recognized the man in the report in the newspaper as Amit who had attempted theft in his house. The police, according to the officer, converted the zero FIR into offence committed by Amit under various relevant sections of IPC.

The SHO further alleged that the offender was found to be in possession of a buttoned knife and therefore a case under Arms Act was also registered against him.

The SHO said that the concerned young man is a hardened thief against whom there are various cases registered in various police stations of Delhi. In this context he referred to a case registered against Amit Kumar on 9 Feb 99 in Ashok Vihar police station and other in Rohini police station on 9 July 03.

Conclusion

  1. Police version has very apparent serious loopholes. On the one hand the SHO says that the victim never came to police station, on the other his junior staff takes him to hospital to gets his plaster done at 12 oclock in the night.
  2. The police does not mention what were the articles stolen from Mr. Gupta’s house. Apparently nothing was stolen. If it was mere an aborted attempt of theft then one has reasons to disbelieve the alacrity of Mr. Gupta in reporting the theft on the one hand and on the other police’s exemplary adherence to rules while registering the case.
  3. If the theft theory is to be sustained for a while even then as per Mr. Gupta he could not see the thief jumping off the house clearly since it was dark. But he recognizes him after a day beyond a reasonable doubt and the police believes him and obliges with changing the FIR. The rationale, credibility and justification of the exercise prima facie stand implausible.
  4. The interest that the police shows in digging up the cases against Amit in various police station also smacks motivated. For one it would be a long and time consuming exercise to verify the authenticity of these cases. Two, it is proposed as justification for registering a case of theft against him. Three, it seeks to brand him a person other than normal citizen whose maltreatment at the hands of police is passable as he is an alleged thief.

 

Recommendations

  1. The responsibility must be fixed for the act of mindless violence against the hapless victim in the custody and an exemplary departmental action be taken against the guilty so that such cases do not recur in police stations.
  2. The victim would be unable to work for livelihood for about 2 months. He has a family to feed therefore an adequate compensation must be paid to him after fixing responsibly for the incapacity caused to his person.
  3. The veracity of the alleged case of theft in the present police station and other police stations against the victim and case under arms act be verified and circumstantial evident must be completed minutely. The case must be handed over to another parallel agency within the organization so that truth be known.
  4. It should be ensured that the victim is not persecuted further as the concerned police official tone and tenor pointed to a feeling `how dare he could report against us’.
  5. A basic orientation in respect of protection of human rights should periodically be imparted to police officers at all levels. This becomes necessary in light of a a remark by the area ACP Mr. Rizvi who happened to be in the concerned police station PUCL was speaking to SHO. As SHO told him that he is from PUCL the ACP wondered if it was a petroleum company!

    Apparently the concerned official was not aware of the fact that at times there is blatant violation of civil liberties in the country and the city and there are civil liberties’ organizations in the country which seek to protect such violations. If such a senior officer betrays such an ignorance in regard to something basic related to his profession how would one blame the overworked and less aware constables at the bottom of hierarchy who come in direct contact with the people.

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