Jurisprudence Resources

India: Judiciary’s action against torture during April 2019

The Judiciary in India regularly adjudicates cases of illegal, unjustified and unwarranted arrests, extracting confession from innocent persons for offences which they have never committed, by way of custodial violence, which often results in death.

Some of the emblematic cases of judicial action during April 2019 are given below:

Case 1: Rajasthan High Court directs State Government to submit detailed report on custodial deaths in the State

On 11 April 2019, a division bench of Rajasthan High Court asked the state government of Rajasthan to furnish the details on the number of custodial deaths, number of post-mortems done in such cases and also in how many cases judicial enquiry was done. The reply is returnable by 15 May 2019. The order was passed by the High Court in a suo motu cognizance relating to the usage of mobile phones in jails, complaints of women inmates and custodial deaths. The bench comprising acting Chief Justice Mohammad Rafiq and Justice Goverdhan Bardhar also asked the state government to provide a detailed jail wise report on the deaths and asked them on the kind of ex-gratia given in these cases.[1]

Earlier, the High Court had issued 45 directions to the State Government covering various aspects of jail administration, including general hygiene and sanitation, vocational training, health, food and recreation. The directions included screening of a movie every fortnight for the entertainment of the inmates. It also asked the government to sanction Rs 50,000 per annum for the purchase of sports material to conduct sports activities. For the benefit of mental health of the inmates, the court asked the jail administration to introduce yoga and meditation on a regular basis.[2]

Case 2: Manipur High Court awards compensation in two fake encounter killings

On 11 April 2019, the Manipur High Court ordered the Central Government to pay compensation of Rs. 500,000 each to two women whose husbands were allegedly killed by Assam Rifles personnel in a fake encounter in 2009. The order was passed by a division bench of the high court comprising Chief Justice Ramalingam Sudhakar and Justice MV Muralidaran following two petitions filed by Laishram Prema Devi and Seram Sunita Devi, the widows. Laishram Keshorjit Singh and Seram Priyokumar Meitei of the Urup Litanmakhong area in Imphal East district were picked up by the personnel of 20 Assam Rifles on 1 June 2009 from Tengnoupal check post in then Chandel district (now Tengnoupal district). Later, the two were killed in a fake encounter at the nearby place on the same day. Earlier, the Thoubal district judge conducted an inquiry into the killings and established that the two were killed in a fake encounter.[3] The NHRC also awarded a compensation of Rs. 500,000 each to the next of kin of the two deceased acting on a complaint filed by the Asian Centre for Human Rights.[4]

Case 3: Gujarat High Court transfers custodial death case to CID

On 9 April 2019, the Gujarat High Court transferred investigation in a custodial death case to State’s Crime Investigation Department (CID) from the Crime Branch of Ahmedabad. The case relate to the death of 21-year-old Vivek Rana due to alleged torture at Maninagar police station in Ahmedabad district, Gujarat on 16 November 2014. The High Court ordered the CID to conduct a thorough investigation of the custodial death. As per the case details, Rana was wanted by Maninagar police in connection with a riot case. He surrendered before the city crime branch. His custody was handed over to Maninagar police, which allegedly beat him so much that he died in custody on 16 November 2014. Rana’s sister Renuka Thapa complained that Rana had died due to custodial torture and named Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Reema Munshi, Inspector Vishnudan Gadhvi, Sub-Inspector Narensh Chaudhary and Constable Bharat Italiya.[5]

A judicial inquiry was conducted in the custodial death and the metropolitan court ordered registration of an FIR on murder charge in 2017. The Special Operation Group of Crime Branch registered the FIR and undertook investigation. On 31 January 2019, the Crime Branch filed a chargesheet exonerating all four police officials of murder charge, though the charge of beating was mentioned in the probe report. However, the reason for Rana’s death was attributed to his epileptic seizures. This was not acceptable to the victim’s sister and she moved the High Court. It was argued before the High Court that there were discrepancies in investigation report with regard to the cause of death. The autopsy report and report on medical treatment did not match with the reason put forth by the investigating agency. The deceased had 36 injury marks on his body and evidence revealed that ACP Reema Munshi and three other police personnel had allegedly beaten him severely with belts.[6]

Case 4: Manipur High Court revokes NSA against journalist Kishorchandra Wangkhem

On 8 April 2019, Manipur High Court revoked the detention of television journalist Kishorchandra Wangkhem, aged 39 years, under the National Security Act (NSA) for allegedly criticising the State’s Chief Minister N Biren Singh and other leaders of a political party. The High Court also ordered his immediate release.  The journalist was released on the next day after spending over four months in jail. He was detained under the NSA at the orders of the Imphal West District Magistrate on sedition charges on 21 November 2018 and sent to jail for 12 months. Wangkhem had moved court against his detention on 20 December 2018.[7]

Case 5: Court frames charges against nine policemen in 26-year-old fake encounter case in Punjab

 On 4 April 2019, the court of Ropar Additional District and Session Judge Ravdeep Singh Hundal framed charges of murder and criminal conspiracy against nine police personnel including a former superintendent of police in a 26-year-old fake encounter case in Ropar district of Punjab. The accused had allegedly killed a 20-year-old constable Paramjit Singh in July 1993 and then registered a case of the encounter between the police and the deceased along with his unidentified accomplice during the peak of militancy in Punjab. The court maintained the murder and criminal conspiracy charges against the then Chamkaur Sahib SHO Harpal Singh, who later retired as superintendent of police, Assistant Sub Inspectors (ASIs) Santokh Singh and Gurnam Singh; retired Constables Parmail Singh and Rajinder Singh; Head Constable Iqbal Mohammad, Constables Mohinder Singh, Sukhwinder Lal, and Jaswinder Singh. In addition, a woman identified as Mohinder Kaur of Maujlipur village was also booked for murder as Paramjit Singh was allegedly killed at her house. Earlier, all the accused were placed under arrest by the court of Ropar judicial magistrate Harish Kumar under sections of murder and the case was committed to additional district and sessions judge for framing of charges. The Court also rejected the bail application filed by the accused. The case was filed in 1998 by Paramjit’s grandfather Daljit Singh who passed away in 2009.[8]

Case 6: Haryana Court sentenced five policemen to five years imprisonment for custodial death

On 1 April 2019, the court of Additional District and Sessions judge, Fatehabad in Hayana sentenced five police personnel to five years imprisonment for the custodial death of Dalbir Singh on 20 May 2008. The Court also imposed a fine of Rs. 21,000 on each of the five guilty police perssonel. The guilty police personnel were identified as Rajendra Kumar, Sriram, Ranbir Singh, Ram Bhatt and Bijay Singh attached to the GRP police station, Jakhal. According to the petition filed by deceased’s bother Samsher Singh, a false case was filed against Dalbir Singh on 16 May 2008 by GRP Jakhal and he was beaten with sticks in custody. Later, Dalbir Singh was admitted at PGI hospital, Rohtak where he succumbed to his injuries on 29 May 2008. Samsher Singh claimed that he saw injury marks on his brother’s body.[9]


Endnotes:

[1]. Give details on custodial death: Court, The Times of India, 12 April 2019, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jaipur/give-details-on-custodial-death-court/articleshowprint/68840859.cms

[2]. Give details on custodial death: Court, The Times of India, 12 April 2019, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jaipur/give-details-on-custodial-death-court/articleshowprint/68840859.cms

[3]. ‘Pay Rs 5 lakh each to wives of 2 fake encounter victims’, The Times of India, 15 April 2019, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/imphal/pay-rs-5-lakh-each-to-wives-of-2-fake-encounter-victims/articleshowprint/68884330.cms

[4]. NHRC Case No. 11/14/2/09-10-PF

[5]. Custodial death: Gujarat HC transfers probe to CID, The Times of India, 10 April 2019, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/custodial-death-hc-transfers-probe-to-cid/articleshowprint/68802781.cms

[6]. Custodial death: Gujarat HC transfers probe to CID, The Times of India, 10 April 2019, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/custodial-death-hc-transfers-probe-to-cid/articleshowprint/68802781.cms

[7]. Manipur journalist detained under NSA walks out of jail, The Times of India, 10 April 2019, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/manipur-journalist-detained-under-nsa-walks-out-of-jail/articleshowprint/68821150.cms

[8]. Court frames charges in 26 year old fake encounter against 9 cops, The Times of India, 5 April 2019, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ludhiana/court-frames-charges-in-26-yr-old-fake-encounter-against-9-cops/articleshowprint/68730669.cms

[9]. See Dainik Savera Times, 2 April 2019, https://www.dainiksaveratimes.com/crime/news/sentenced-to-death-during-detention-five-police-personnel-arrested-230190

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