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Gujarat HC slams senior cops for conducting a “sham inquiry” in custodial torture case

Four people were detained and tortured in police custody only because cops believe they were criminals as they hailed from a certain community, but inquiry by senior cops gave errant cops a clean chit

Sabrangindia 01 Apr 2022

custodial torture case
Image Courtesy:vibesofindia.com

The High Court of Gujarat on March 16, while hearing the Special Criminal Application filed by the victims of police custodial torture,slammed senior police officers for protecting their subordinates by covering up their crimes with an allegedly fallacious inquiry report.

The victims – two brothers and their wives – had been detained in connection with a case related to robbery. But it turns out that they were picked up by the police on suspicion only because of the police personnel’s biased opinions about the community from which they all hailed. The senior cops who had been tasked to probe allegations of communal profiling, however, did not find any fault with the manner in which the behaviour of the cops involved in detaining the accused and their alleged custodial torture.

In its order, the court observed, “Having heard the submissions made by learned Advocates for theparties, this Court is of the prima facie opinion that this is a clear case ofextreme excess by the concerned police authorities and whereas even seniorofficers of the level of Dy.S.P. and SP, who were supposed to hold animpartial inquiry, have just conducted a sham inquiry may be in order toprotect their subordinates.”

The HC was shocked to find that the police officials held biased opinions against the Petitioners(the victims of police profiling and brutality) as theybelong to a particular community. This is a clear case of communal profiling.It also appears from the report that numerous cases are filed against a near relative of the present Petitioners.Through the report it also appeared to the Court that the Petitioners appeared to be victims only because of their birth in certain community.

The HC recorded in its Order, “It appears that the police officials were swayed by the fact that the petitioners belong to a particular community and whereas the said community, according to the investigation as being attempted to be obliquely mentioned therein, is engaged in theft and other illegal activities and whereas there also appear to be numerous cases against a near relative of the present petitioners. Thus, it appears that while the petitioners though they are earning their livelihood honestly, on account of the fact that they had been born in a particular community and certain persons in the community are engaged in doing illegal activity and one of the relatives of the petitioners also stated to be engaged in such illegal activity, therefore the petitioners also have been profiled as law breakers.”

Taking the senior police officials to task, the Court minced no words as it observed, “The apathy of the police officials, more particularly the senior officers of the level of Dy.S.P and SP submitting such a halfhearted report before this Court is not appreciated.”

Brief background of the case

On February 04, 2015, two couples were arrested in connection with a First Information Report (FIR) registered in Dhandhuka Police Station in Ahmedabad district for offences under sections 328 and 394 of Indian Penal Code, in which allegations were made against two unknown males and two unknown females. These people were then allegedly harassed and tortured in police custody.

According to the confessional statements of the victims, four other such cases for undetected offences were made againstthem by concerned police stations. The trial Courts have acquitted the victims in all thesefour cases.

The Single-judgeBench of Justice Nikhil Kariel noted that the victims belonging to certain community were living in the village for at least 12 years and were earning their livelihood through honest occupations. According to the investigating officer’s report dated April 27, 2015, the Petitioner No. 1 and 2 while passing on a motorbike was intercepted by the police party and the petitioners had not stopped their motorbike. They had slipped and fell down a little further and had been caught by the police officials.

The HC noted in its Order how “the investigation proceeded where the only material available against the petitioners, being in the nature of their confession, the Investigating Officer accepting the same, had submitted the charge-sheet and fortunately for the petitioners the entire investigation fell through before the Court conducting the trial. The fall was such that even the complainant who is alleged to have identified the petitioners in the Identification Parade in the office of the Mamlatdar, in his deposition has stated that the petitioners were not identified by him as the persons who had committed the alleged offence.”

Investigation reports

The investigating officer submitted the report to the Learned Magistrate in March 2015 in regard with the FIR registered in Barwala Police station against the victims.Through his investigations and interventions with other three cases as well, he had proved that the complainants of the said FIRs have not identified the victims as the persons who had committed the offences. The investigation report also contains the certificates issued by the Medical Officer of the Community Health Centre, Barwala which reveals numerous injuries were sustained by the victims, more particularly on account of torture by the police officers.

Interestingly, during the same period, in March 2015, the Deputy Superintendent of Police, Viramgam and Superintendent of Police, Ahmedabad had also conducted an investigation which shockingly, could not unearth any fault in the act of police officials! The report also states the reason of apprehending the victims in the first place could be their birth in certain community as there are other people of the community who are (allegedy) involved in illegal activity.

The High Court decision

The Single-judge Bench of Gujarat High Court presided by Justice Nikhil S. Karielopined that this was a case of police excesses, and also the Senior Police officers who were supposed to hold an impartial inquiry, have come up with a fallacious report after conducting a sham inquiry in order to protect their subordinates.

The Court also observed that the police officers didn’t even consider the aspect that independent witnesses came forward to support the fact that the Petitioner no. 1 and 2 are brothers and Petitioner no. 3 and 4 being their wives were earning their living through honest occupations. The Court further observed that as the victims were cultivating cotton in certain agriculture land, the money and the ornaments recovered from the victims were bought from the money of their hardships and was not related to any criminal activity for which they were being prosecuted.   

The Court further ordered Inspector General of Police, Ahmedabad range, to conduct a thorough investigation into the cause of arrest of the Petitioners and implication in other cases of undetected offences for which the Petitioners were charged,and submit a detailed report by way of affidavit about any excess committed by the police officials at any stage.

As the petitioners had gone through pain and suffering because of erroneous investigation committed by the police officers, the Court had asked the State Government of Gujarat to file an affidavit as to why compensation in the nature of exemplary compensation should not be directed to be paid to the Petitioners by the State.The Bench listed the matter on April 12, 2022 for filing of both the affidavits.

The Order may be read here: 

Related:

Protecting and Promoting Minority Rights in India’s Criminal Justice System: Need for a Special Law
Why has India still not ratified UN Convention against torture?
Has torture in police custody become routine?

Gujarat HC slams senior cops for conducting a “sham inquiry” in custodial torture case

Four people were detained and tortured in police custody only because cops believe they were criminals as they hailed from a certain community, but inquiry by senior cops gave errant cops a clean chit

custodial torture case
Image Courtesy:vibesofindia.com

The High Court of Gujarat on March 16, while hearing the Special Criminal Application filed by the victims of police custodial torture,slammed senior police officers for protecting their subordinates by covering up their crimes with an allegedly fallacious inquiry report.

The victims – two brothers and their wives – had been detained in connection with a case related to robbery. But it turns out that they were picked up by the police on suspicion only because of the police personnel’s biased opinions about the community from which they all hailed. The senior cops who had been tasked to probe allegations of communal profiling, however, did not find any fault with the manner in which the behaviour of the cops involved in detaining the accused and their alleged custodial torture.

In its order, the court observed, “Having heard the submissions made by learned Advocates for theparties, this Court is of the prima facie opinion that this is a clear case ofextreme excess by the concerned police authorities and whereas even seniorofficers of the level of Dy.S.P. and SP, who were supposed to hold animpartial inquiry, have just conducted a sham inquiry may be in order toprotect their subordinates.”

The HC was shocked to find that the police officials held biased opinions against the Petitioners(the victims of police profiling and brutality) as theybelong to a particular community. This is a clear case of communal profiling.It also appears from the report that numerous cases are filed against a near relative of the present Petitioners.Through the report it also appeared to the Court that the Petitioners appeared to be victims only because of their birth in certain community.

The HC recorded in its Order, “It appears that the police officials were swayed by the fact that the petitioners belong to a particular community and whereas the said community, according to the investigation as being attempted to be obliquely mentioned therein, is engaged in theft and other illegal activities and whereas there also appear to be numerous cases against a near relative of the present petitioners. Thus, it appears that while the petitioners though they are earning their livelihood honestly, on account of the fact that they had been born in a particular community and certain persons in the community are engaged in doing illegal activity and one of the relatives of the petitioners also stated to be engaged in such illegal activity, therefore the petitioners also have been profiled as law breakers.”

Taking the senior police officials to task, the Court minced no words as it observed, “The apathy of the police officials, more particularly the senior officers of the level of Dy.S.P and SP submitting such a halfhearted report before this Court is not appreciated.”

Brief background of the case

On February 04, 2015, two couples were arrested in connection with a First Information Report (FIR) registered in Dhandhuka Police Station in Ahmedabad district for offences under sections 328 and 394 of Indian Penal Code, in which allegations were made against two unknown males and two unknown females. These people were then allegedly harassed and tortured in police custody.

According to the confessional statements of the victims, four other such cases for undetected offences were made againstthem by concerned police stations. The trial Courts have acquitted the victims in all thesefour cases.

The Single-judgeBench of Justice Nikhil Kariel noted that the victims belonging to certain community were living in the village for at least 12 years and were earning their livelihood through honest occupations. According to the investigating officer’s report dated April 27, 2015, the Petitioner No. 1 and 2 while passing on a motorbike was intercepted by the police party and the petitioners had not stopped their motorbike. They had slipped and fell down a little further and had been caught by the police officials.

The HC noted in its Order how “the investigation proceeded where the only material available against the petitioners, being in the nature of their confession, the Investigating Officer accepting the same, had submitted the charge-sheet and fortunately for the petitioners the entire investigation fell through before the Court conducting the trial. The fall was such that even the complainant who is alleged to have identified the petitioners in the Identification Parade in the office of the Mamlatdar, in his deposition has stated that the petitioners were not identified by him as the persons who had committed the alleged offence.”

Investigation reports

The investigating officer submitted the report to the Learned Magistrate in March 2015 in regard with the FIR registered in Barwala Police station against the victims.Through his investigations and interventions with other three cases as well, he had proved that the complainants of the said FIRs have not identified the victims as the persons who had committed the offences. The investigation report also contains the certificates issued by the Medical Officer of the Community Health Centre, Barwala which reveals numerous injuries were sustained by the victims, more particularly on account of torture by the police officers.

Interestingly, during the same period, in March 2015, the Deputy Superintendent of Police, Viramgam and Superintendent of Police, Ahmedabad had also conducted an investigation which shockingly, could not unearth any fault in the act of police officials! The report also states the reason of apprehending the victims in the first place could be their birth in certain community as there are other people of the community who are (allegedy) involved in illegal activity.

The High Court decision

The Single-judge Bench of Gujarat High Court presided by Justice Nikhil S. Karielopined that this was a case of police excesses, and also the Senior Police officers who were supposed to hold an impartial inquiry, have come up with a fallacious report after conducting a sham inquiry in order to protect their subordinates.

The Court also observed that the police officers didn’t even consider the aspect that independent witnesses came forward to support the fact that the Petitioner no. 1 and 2 are brothers and Petitioner no. 3 and 4 being their wives were earning their living through honest occupations. The Court further observed that as the victims were cultivating cotton in certain agriculture land, the money and the ornaments recovered from the victims were bought from the money of their hardships and was not related to any criminal activity for which they were being prosecuted.   

The Court further ordered Inspector General of Police, Ahmedabad range, to conduct a thorough investigation into the cause of arrest of the Petitioners and implication in other cases of undetected offences for which the Petitioners were charged,and submit a detailed report by way of affidavit about any excess committed by the police officials at any stage.

As the petitioners had gone through pain and suffering because of erroneous investigation committed by the police officers, the Court had asked the State Government of Gujarat to file an affidavit as to why compensation in the nature of exemplary compensation should not be directed to be paid to the Petitioners by the State.The Bench listed the matter on April 12, 2022 for filing of both the affidavits.

The Order may be read here: 

Related:

Protecting and Promoting Minority Rights in India’s Criminal Justice System: Need for a Special Law
Why has India still not ratified UN Convention against torture?
Has torture in police custody become routine?

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