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PUCL, February 2007

Profile of a police station in India post Nithari, lockup story in Noida

-- By Dr. Pushkar Raj
Secretary, PUCL

Anil and Arvinder in polic e lockup
Anil and Arvinder in police lockup in Noida
Photo by Dr. Pushkar Raj, Click on photo to enlarge.

As I led a group of researchers on police and judicial reforms from School of Law and Governance from one of the prestigious universities of India, JNU, to one of the police stations in Noida, a suburb of Delhi, I overheard the researchers talking amongst themselves that they were visiting a police stations for the first time. I was not surprised. Most of the privileged of India do not go to the police, the police come to them. For poor it is different. As is evident from Nithari.

The group was excited. More so because they were visiting a police station in Noida, supposedly the infrastructural capital of the country and home to the cream of Indiaís retired bureaucrats, influential and prosperous. Add to it that the police station they were going to visit was the one that had presided over the doings of the serial killers of the notorious Nithari.

As we entered through the entrance into an alley, two dirt invested old white plastic chairs greeted us. In front of them laid a bench like long table covered with a piece of mud colored cloth that was washed long back. Across the table were two more chairs supposedly for the duty officer and his assistant. All the chairs were empty.

To the left of this alley stood menís lock up, somewhat in darkness and invisible. Opposite to it was womanís lock up. The women lock up was being used as a dumping store including liquor bottles which were there in plenty. On the right side was the record room; opposite to it was a spacious room that was station house officerís (SHO, who is known as SO) office.

The duty officer was a sub-inspector, the same rank that is of the police station in charge. There could be as many as ten sub inspectors serving under the sub inspector who is the station in charge. How they manage the psychological upheaval of subordinates of the sub-inspector rank serving under the station house in charge of the same rank and its impact on administrative and professional functioning is any oneís guess.

The duty officer as a matter of exception was not arrogant. He pleasingly agreed to address the questions of the researchers. He enlightened the researchers that a suspect always needs `thukai pitaií (sound trashing) to tell the truth. To him that was not only a rule but a cosmic truth that could be ignored at the peril of the investigation. He further said that generally they end up spending money out of their own pocket while investigating a case if it involves stiff dead lines when influential people are involved or if that involves traveling. Or it is done at the expense of the party that might benefit if the case is worked out. The provisions under law that provide for release of money for investigation of a case are too antiquated, cumbersome and inadequate that they are left unused. It is insulting to ask for money from the police station in charge who has discretion over that fund.

As the rest of them were engaged in serious conversation with the duty officer I peeped into the menís lockup room.

The menís lock up, a fifteen by twelve room without light had a worn out darri spread over it. In one corner stood a wall of around three feet height separating the rest of the room that served as a bathe room and the toilets for the inmates. Being in a corner of an unventilated lockup the place was enveloped with a stink of urine and excreta.

There were two inmates. One awake and the other asleep. As I spoke to the one who was awake the other also got up. He was wrapped in a thin blanket, definitely not adequate in under 5 degree Celsius temperature in cold winter of the capital and its surroundings. One was Anil. The other was Ravinder. Anil was 24, dark, well built and handsome. Under matric from Bihar he worked in a factory in Noida. His friend Ravinder, a little taller matched his friendís physique and education and was 26. Ravinder works in Delhi.

Anil was charged with eloping with a girl who the police say is minor, Anil says she is not. Ravinder has nothing to do with it. He was there because he was Anilís friend. He came to visit him in police station and thanks to the police he got stuck up in lock up. Both of them are there for four days- a clear violation of article 21 of the Indian constitution.

As I looked into the eyes of these two inmates in lockup there was tiredness, grief and resignation. I asked them what the matter was. They reluctantly told me that they were hungry. It was four in the afternoon. They were given food last night. They told me that generally they were given food once a day- during the night only. That too was not adequate. There was no drinking water in the lockup.

I asked the police in charge why they were kept in lock up for four days while they should be presented before the judicial magistrate under the law. He answered in `know all toneí that these people have committed a very serious crime and that these types of the cases get solved like this only. I did not reason with him what law provided, for I knew that it would not make this over fifty years old officer see reason.

When I asked him why they were not given adequate food he said that they get Rs. Three and fifty paisa per meal (or was it Rs. Five and fifty paisa, he was not sure and he did not think it fit to confirm it). And he implied that it was obviously not enough to feed them three times a day.

I wondered how many future inmates of this lockup will be starved and dehumanized before the officers of this police station will respect the law of the land. And this is one of our better police stations on the edge of the capital. Imagine about the rest! .

People's Union for Civil Liberties, 81 Sahayoga Apartmrnts, Mayur Vihar I, Delhi 110091, India. Phone (91) 11 2275 0014