New Delhi: Nearly four months after two Muslim men died in Bihar police custody due to alleged torture, the Supreme Court will hear a plea next week, seeking an impartial investigation into the incident.
The plea, submitted by NGO Citizens Against Hate, stated that the Bihar police and the doctors who conducted the post-mortem colluded to cover up the crime.
The plea, filed in April by advocate Fauzia Shakil, will be heard Tuesday by a bench comprising Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi along with Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose when the apex court reopens Monday after its nearly two-month summer vacation.
According to the plea, it appeared that the two men were brutally beaten up in police custody — their hands and legs were broken, they had abrasions, nails were hammered into their bodies, and they seemed to have been given electric shocks too.
Photographs and videos of the bodies being washed before the burial showed the marks of torture, the plea stated.
The World Organisation Against Torture, a network fighting against human rights violations, condemned the incident Friday and urged India to “prosecute the alleged perpetrators” and “abide by its promise to ratify the UN Convention against Torture”.
“Despite civil society fact-finding missions, numerous reports in local and national newspapers and requests for investigations sent to the Chief Minister of Bihar by a group of eminent former civil servants, no meaningful actions have been taken almost four months after the incident,” the organisation’s statement read.
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“While India’s National Human Rights Commission examines the case to decide its intervention, it is urged to immediately conduct an independent inquiry with no more delay.”
FIR named only one police officer
On the intervening night of 5-6 March, police officials of Chakiya police station had picked up Gufran Alam (30) and Taslim Ansari (32) from their residences in Sitamarhi district in connection with a case of motorcycle theft.
Later, the family members of the two men were informed that the duo was taken to Dumra police station, almost 100 km away from Chakiya.
On 6 March — hours after being picked up by police — family members of the duo were informed that they were dead and the post-mortem examinations have also been done.
Faced with severe criticism over the incident, an FIR was filed and five policemen of Dumra police station were suspended. But apart from the then-Station House Officer (SHO) Chandrabhushan Singh, no other police official has been named in the FIR.
Confirming the custodial death, Bihar Director General of Police (DGP) Gupteshwar Pandey had termed the incident “unacceptable” and said the police officials, including the officer-in-charge of Dumra police station, “will also face departmental action”.
“If they do not surrender, they can even face dismissal. We have issued a show-cause notice to Sitamarhi SP who has been transferred,” Pandey had said.
In its plea, the NGO said the manner of arrest and the subsequent torture of Alam and Ansari was a grave violation of their fundamental rights.
It alleged that the Bihar police have attempted to cover up the incident to protect their colleagues.
“The only named accused, the SHO of Dumra, Chandrabhushan Singh, was allegedly arrested on 07-03-2019 and in the most shocking manner, on the same date, with the connivance of the local police, he managed to escape from custody,” the plea stated.
“The escape of the prime accused is demonstrative of the connivance and bias of the Bihar police and their lack of seriousness in fairly investigating the crime against their own colleagues.”
The plea further said guidelines framed by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) have also been violated while conducting the post-mortem. Though the post-mortem — the process of which was not recorded as per the NHRC guidelines — stated that the injuries on the bodies were made by some hard and blunt objects, it did not state the cause of death.
The plea said: “It is most respectfully submitted that the lackadaisical manner in which the post-mortems were conducted is clearly indicative of the collusion of the doctors in the cover-up, which begs the question as to under what pressures were they forced to or voluntarily committed such gross dereliction of duty.”
The plea said the state machinery attempted to shield the accused to such an extent that even a magisterial inquiry — as mandated in custodial death cases — was not called for.
Eight former DGPs had condemned the incident
After the incident, eight former DGPs had written a letter to Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, seeking action against the accused.
“We (former DGPs) condemn the alleged custodial torture of two men at the Dumra police station in Bihar’s Sitamarhi district that eventually caused their death. Third-degree (torture) is simply not acceptable and reflects poor professional skills,” the statement had said.
Former DGPs Julio Ribeiro from Punjab, Prakash Singh from Uttar Pradesh, Assam and the Border Security Force, P.K.H. Tharakan and Jacob Punnoose from Kerala, Kamal Kumar from the National Police Academy, Sanjeev Dayal from Maharashtra, Jayanto N. Choudhury from Assam and the National Security Guard, and N. Ramachandran from Meghalaya had signed the letter.
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