On October 19, the Gujarat High Court found the four police officers accused of publicly flogging five Muslim men guilty of committing contempt of court and violating the guidelines on custodial torture issued by the Supreme Court in the case of D.K. Basu v Union of India. The division bench of the High Court, comprising Justices AS Supehia and Gita Gopi, had sentencing the convicted police officers to undergo a simple imprisonment of 14 days along with a fine of Rs. 2000 each. Additionally, if the convicted officers failed to pay the fine imposed, they will have to undergo a further 3-day imprisonment. The police officers convicted are Inspector AV Parmar, sub-inspector DB Kumavat, Constable Rajubhai Rameshbhai Dabhi and head Constable Kanaksinh Laxmansinh.
Notably, the Gujarat High Court has granted a stay on the order for three months to allow the accused to move an appeal against the verdict to the Supreme Court. The said stay had been granted on the request made by senior advocate Prakash Jani, who was representing to the accused officers.
It is essential to note here that the aforementioned judgment had been announced by the High Court bench in the Kheda flogging case. In October 2022, videos showing 13 police officers mercilessly flogging the victims had surfaced on the internet. The said illegal action by the police had been in response to an incident of communal clash that had been reported a day prior wherein it had been alleged that a mob of 150-200 people had allegedly attacked a garba event in Kheda district by pelting stones and had allegedly “hurt religious sentiments”. In the same month, the five Muslim men had moved the court to seek justice.
As per a report of Indian Express, while delivering the verdict, the bench had termed the act of public flogging by the police as “inhumane” and an “act against humanity”. The bench had also delved into the physical and emotional damage that acts of torture or humiliation can cause on the ones subjected to it. In addition to this, the court also emphasized that under the criminal justice system of India, the arrestees have been granted protections and rights. Even when under arrest, the right to life of an arrestee, which also includes the right to life with dignity, cannot be put in abeyance.
As provided in the IE report, the bench also quoted Mother Teresa while pronouncing the sentence. The bench stated that Mother Teresa had said, “Human rights are not a privilege conferred by government, they are every human being’s entitlement by virtue of humanity. The right of life does not depend and must not be contingent on the pleasure of anyone else, not even a parent or a sovereign.” Relying on the same, the bench noted that in this case, the accused cops “have defiled the human rights and dignity of the complainants as if they were conferred with the privilege to do so”, as per IE.
The court also observed that the ones who are given the power to uphold law and order “should not become depredations of civil liberties for their duty is to protect and not to abdicate” and that an accused person’s “dignity cannot be allowed to be comatose” once the person is in police custody.
Prior to this, on October 16, the five Muslim victims in the case had refused to compromise and settle with the four police officers when they had expressed a desire to pay compensation rather than face such punishment that could affect their careers.
Background of the case:
In October 2022, a group of Muslim men had allegedly thrown stones at a garba site near a mosque at Undhela village of Kheda. The following day, five Muslims accused of being involved in the incident had been dragged out in public, tied to a pole and beaten with a stick by almost 13 police officers as the crowd had cheered them on. Videos of the flogging went viral on social media. The video also showed the five Muslim men being asked to apologise to the public.
Victims Jahirmiya Malek (aged 62) Maksudabanu Malek (aged 45) Sahadmiya Malek (aged 23) Sakilmiya Malek (aged 24) and Shahidraja Malek (aged 25) had moved the Gujarat High Court in October 2022 itself seeking action against the 13 offending police officers. They had asked the High court to “punish the accused officers for contempt and non-compliance” of the directions enunciated by the Supreme Court in the D. K Basu case. In the said case, the Supreme Court had pronounced detailed guidelines to be followed by the police during arrest and detention and on custodial torture.