PUCL Bulletin, July 2004

Punjab Human Rights Committee

Brutal torture in Thermal police station, Bhatinda

Investigation Team Members:
Ved Parkash Gupta; B.S. Bhullar, Press correspondent; Dr. Vitull K. Gupta, MD

Bhatinda police has put to shame all the previous third degree torture cases.

According to Three Member investigation team constituted by Punjab Human Rights Committee, one migrant laborer Romesh Kumar S/O Chotu Ram of village Bisma district Mainpuri in U.P. was picked up by two constables of Thermal Plant Police Station on 11.5.04 at about 11a.m. Romesh Kumar was working at a roadside eatery, Pawan Dhaba, at monthly wages of Rs.1500. On 11.5.04 when Romesh demanded his wages from the employer, he slapped him and accused him of involvement in a theft at the house of a relative, a petrol pump worker called Taayaaji.

Romesh was kept in illegal custody for the whole night without any information to his parents or relatives. During his custody in police station he was threatened with dire consequences if he did not confess theft. Next day, that is, on 12.5.04 he was taken out of the lock up at about 10am. He was stripped naked and his hands were tied behind his back. His head was pushed in a tub full of water forcibly by two policepersons in plain clothes, in an attempt to make him confess his crime. Fearing for his life, he became hysterical and began crying and shouting loudly. His shouting irritated the sadist policepersons and a heavily built policeman gave him a severe blow with his knee on his back while Romesh was in the grip of two other policepersons in a forward bending posture who were trying to dip Romesh’s head in water. At this heavy blow Romesh felt a sudden cracking sound from his back and fell down numb.

When Romesh was unable to stand up, the beasts in uniforms became furious and said that Romesh was pretending to escape torture. When the policepersons asked him to stand up, Romesh told them that his leg was not working. In the meantime the incharge of police station reached there. On being told that the right leg of Romesh was not working, the officer incharge started hitting his leg with a dandaa saying that he would make his leg work. After some blows Romesh was in bad shape and started crying and shouting. At this the policepersons panicked.
Due to Romesh’s serious condition, the policepersons took him to a self styled orthopedist, Chiragdeen Malik. He examined Romesh and advised an X-ray of his backbone.

Policepersons got his X-ray done from Omega Centre, Bhatinda. On examining the X-ray, Chiragdeen Malik expressed his inability to treat Romesh, citing the seriousness of the injury. The X-ray showed collapse of the L-1 and L-2 vertebrae with obliteration of the L-1&2, L-2&3 disc spaces.
The policepersons became more worried and took Romesh to a qualified orthopedist of the city. The doctor after examining Romesh in detail advised MRI scan of the spine. The MRI scan was done at Adesh Diagnostic Centre Bhatinda and report was taken to the doctor. The doctor on examining the MRI report told the accompanying plain clothes policepersons about the seriousness of the injury. He expressed his inability to treat Romesh. He suggested to the policepersons to consult a Neurosurgeon for his proper treatment.

Finding no other alternative Romesh was taken to the railway station for their journey to Chandigarh. Missing the night train both policepersons hired a taxi to Chandigarh. The Police got Romesh admitted to PGI Chandigarh on 13.5.04. The accompanying policepersons in civilian clothes posing as good Samaritans who had brought Romesh to PGI on humanitarian grounds, gave a wrong and false history of Ramesh’s’ injury saying that Romesh had suffered a fracture compression of the back bone one and a half years back. Presently his employer, a hotel manager, causing fresh injuries, beat him. After this putting Rs.400 in the pocket of Romesh and giving him a water bottle, both of them fled the scene promising that they will be back after taking meals.

Ultimately Romesh requested the PGI doctors to inform his parents and gave them the phone number of a contact. Doctors at the PGI did not wait for his parents to come and discharged him the same day. The poor boy begged and borrowed some money from the kin of a patient there and with the help of some other good persons who helped him in getting off and on the bus reached Bhatinda. Ultimately he reached his home and narrated the whole story to his parents. Romesh spent 4 days in PGI.

Romesh was then admitted to Civil Hospital Bhatinda on 18.5.04. From 18th to 21st almost all the doctors visiting him advised him to get discharged from the hospital not because of sympathy but to get rid of Romesh. Nobody bothered to treat him properly in the civil hospital. On 21st Chotu Ram, father of Romesh, saw darkness around him and no help or a word of sympathy from any side either from the doctors or the police. Then he met Punjab Human Rights Committee General Secretary and submitted a written letter about the whole incident. A deputation of Human Rights Committee members and some journalists met the Deputy Commissioner K.A.P. Sinha and told him about the incident. The D.C. directed the Civil Surgeon who was incidentally present in the office of D.C. to issue the medico-legal report immediately.

On 23.5.04 three members of PHRC Enquiry Committee went to Civil Hospital in the morning to meet the torture victim. The team found two doctors examining the victim Romesh and writing the medico-legal report. The Team took photos of the injuries and of the doctors examining the victim. Romesh narrated the whole incident to the team in detail.
The team recorded in detail every thing that had happened to him. The team also tried to contact the Thermal Police Station Incharge allegedly accused of torturing Romesh but he could not be contacted. Then the Team members met S.P (D), Mr. Ajay Maluja. He informed the PHRC team that he will submit his report to the SSP as soon as he got the medico-legal report from Civil Hospital Bhatinda.

When there was no further action in the matter, a deputation of presspersons and human rights activist met Civil Surgeon Dr. S.K. Goel in his office. He failed to convince the deputation about the legitimacy of the delay in preparing the medico-legal report. The Civil Surgeon was taking the PGI discharge slip with C.R.No. 345163 of Romesh as medico-legal report. Strangely enough that discharge slip of PGI only carries history, examination, and management details without any medico-legal report. History in that slip is of an old compression fracture of L-1, L-2 spine and also history of the victim being beaten by his employer, a dhaabaa owner. This false history was recorded by the two policepersons who accompanied Romesh to the PGI doctors to save their skin.

The Civil Surgeon is deliberately delaying the medico-legal report to buy time for the police officials to work out a compromise and delay the registration of the case against them. It is shameful on the part of the Civil Surgeon and the other doctors for not giving any importance to the MRI report which was done on the very first day of torture. In such types of injuries MRI scan is the most important investigation.

Punjab Human Rights Committee team concludes that policepersons including the Incharge of Thermal Police Station are guilty of illegal detention and third degree torture leading to severe spinal injury and paralysis of right leg of Romesh, a migrant poor young boy. The role of Civil Surgeon and the doctors attending on Romesh is most condemnable as their connivance with the police brutality is as clear as a crystal because of their negligence in delaying the medico-legal report and making the PGI discharge slip as the basis of their diagnosis, ignoring the MRI report done on the very first day of the injury. The nexus between the police and the health officials is so strong that the orders of the Deputy Commissioners were brushed aside.

Punjab Human Rights Committee feels that all the efforts of DGP and other high police officials who are trying to create good police public relations and improve the image of the police force through regular meetings, workshops, and their training in this regard seems to be hollow and without spirit. Such incidents of brutality by the police fail to attract DGP’s and higher police officers attention and prompt action against the guilty inspite of wide publicity in newspapers. This is one of the major reasons of failure in building good police-public relations.

PHRC demands from the State Government immediate registration of criminal case against the guilty policepersons and adequate financial compensation including expenses for the treatment of Romesh who has been rendered handicapped for the rest of his life.

Copies of this report are being sent to:
Chief Justice of Supreme Court, New Delhi.
Chief Justice of Punjab & Haryana High Court, Chandigarh
National Human Rights Commission, New Delhi.
Prime Minister of India, New Delhi.
Chief Minister of Punjab, Chandigarh
Director General of Police of Punjab, Chandigarh.

Issued by:
Ved Parkash Gupta, General Secretary, Punjab Human Rights Committee, 5042, Affim Wali Gali, Bhatinda.


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