The six policemen from Vadodara who have been charged for allegedly killing a migrant worker from Telangana are now untraceable. The deceased, Babu Sheikh Nisar, aged 65, has been missing since December 10, 2019 when he was picked up by Fatehgunj police and brought to the police station. The body of the deceased has not yet been found by the police and hopes of finding the same are very bleak as over 6 months have passed since the body has been disposed of.
The police have initiated a manhunt for the 6 policemen who are now absconding. The FIR has been lodged at the instance of Assistant Commissioner of Police, ‘E’ Division, Vadodara City, S G Patil after the son of the deceased wrote a letter to the Commissioner of Police of Vadodara and a confidential inquiry was then initiated.
The Indian Express reported that the FIR has been registered against police inspector DB Gohil, sub-inspector DM Rabari and LRD jawans Pankaj Mavjibhai, Yogendra Jilansinh, Rajiv Savjibhai and Hitesh Shambubhai under IPC sections 304 (Punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 201 (Causing disappearance of evidence of offence), 203 (Giving false information respecting an offence committed), 204 (Destruction of [document or electronic record] to prevent its production as evidence) and 34 (Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention).
On July 20, during a hearing at the Gujarat High Court of the habeas corpus petition filed by Nisar’s son, the bench of Justices Sonia Gokani and NV Anjaria sought an explanation why the FIR was filed under sec 304 of the IPC, culpable homicide not amounting to murder instead of section 302, which is the charge for murder. Thereafter, the FIR was revised and the charge of murder has been invoked against the accused.
A few days after the inquiry was initiated under Investigating officer BA Chaudhary, the accused policemen were transferred to different police stations to avoid any hindrance in the investigations. But now, the accused are untraceable.
ACP, Patil told the Indian Express, “The accused are very confident that the case against them will not be strong because they have disposed of the body. With almost eight months gone, we do not have much hope of recovering the body too. The personnel feel that it will give them an advantage as the body of the deceased is clinching evidence and its absence can weaken a case. In our system of law, it is upon the prosecution to prove the case against the accused. But because these accused are policemen themselves, the burden of proving their claim will also lie on them as per the provisions of the Evidence Act.”
Four teams are, reportedly, looking for the accused but the search is difficult since the accused, being policemen, are aware of the standard search protocols and will naturally not do anything that would give away their location by any means.
The deceased, Nisar, sold bed-sheets and clothes on a bicycle to make a living and had moved to Gujarat in hope of making some money about 18 months ago. He, along with his son-in-law had come to Vadodara from Ahmedabad on the same day as he was picked up by the police. When he was unable to find his father-in-law, he returned to Ahmedabad and Nisar’s wife and son came to Vadodara to look for him. According to Nisar’s son, they spent about a month at police stations, jails and hospitals looking for him, with no luck. A missing complaint was also lodged at Sayajigunj police station and police teams looked for Nisar in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Telangana and also Rajasthan where there were cases of house break-in against him but the case came to a dead end on January 31.
An entry was in fact made at Fatehgunj police station on the day of the incident but it was asserted that he was let go as there was no evidence against him. Suspicions, however, arose when it was found that a ‘B roll’ entry was made by Fatehgunj police station which has long become a redundant practice as computer entries have become a norm since years. A ‘B roll’ inquiry form is filled when a person is suspected of a crime and his details are registered without bringing him to the police station.
When the confidential inquiry was initiated, it was found that the person who had complained of the house break-in for which Nisar was picked up in the first place, had identified Nisar and had even given a statement but the FIR was never registered, and the application of theft submitted by the complainant, was also destroyed. Inquiry further revealed that there were no witnesses who saw Nisar leaving the police station and CCTV footage of that day of a few hours is not available as the camera was non-functional. The police have recorded statements of 7 witnesses who claim to have seen Nisar in the police station on that day.
The FIR states that Nisar was allegedly tied to a chair and tortured. “A pen was pressed between his fingers until he started bleeding. The victim cried for mercy and said that he was innocent, until his voice finally waned,” the FIR said. The Indian Express reported that in his statement, Assistant Head Constable Shaktisinh, has said that he saw Nisar tied to a chair with a belt and rope to “restrict his movement” while the six accused tortured him to extract a confession of the theft. Shaktisinh has said that he saw the accused inserting a pen between Nisar’s fingers until he bled and “his voice faded away” and he “did not appear that he could be alive”, the FIR states.
Extrajudicial killings have become a raging topic due to the Tamil Nadu custodial killings of a father and son duo as well as encounter killing of criminal Vikas Dubey. The rate at which these incidents are taking place indicate that the police enjoy the impunity for such acts more often than not. The latest National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report of 2018 suggests the same. While 452 deaths were reported in custody between 2014 to 2018, only 192 cases were registered during this period, and 118 policemen were charge sheeted. No police personnel were convicted during this period. Gujarat had the highest number of custodial deaths in 2018, recording 14 deaths.
Hindustan Times reported that according to a report released by the National Campaign Against Torture, a joint initiative by multiple non-governmental organisations, deaths in police custody occur primarily as a result of torture. The report states that of the 125 deaths in police custody that the group recorded in 2019, as many as 93 persons (or three in every four) died due to alleged torture or foul play; while 24 died in suspicious circumstances, with the police claiming they either committed suicide or died of illness or accident.
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