Awarding a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the dependants of a labourer who died due to custodial torture, the Bombay High Court has ordered that the four policemen involved in the incident be booked for committing murder with common intention while also registering a suo motu contempt proceedings against one of them for violating the mandatory directions given by the Supreme Court in DK Basu vs State of West Bengal with regard to all types of arrests and detentions.
A bench of Justice SS Shinde and Justice VK Jadhav passed the judgment close on the heels of a CBI court in Kerala awarding death to two cops for custodial death of a 26-year-old man.
In the instant case, the Aurangabad bench of Bombay High Court ordered registration of case of murder against head constable Shankar Rathod, Naiks ND Misal and RV Fufate and constable police driver Yeole posted at Shivaji Nagar police station in year 2015 for the custodial death of a labourer named Shaikh Muhammed Shaikh Rustam detained on charge of theft of mobile phones.
Directing the state to entrust the probe to CID, the bench expressly stated that the same be brought to its logical end within four months.
The court’s decision comes on a petition moved by Rustam’s widow, father and brother praying for a CBI probe into his death due to severe injuries such as fracture of the skull, registration of criminal case against the four cops besides compensation.
Their counsel Saeed S Shaikh told the court that Rustam was residing with his family at Neknoor, Beed.
On August 26, 2015, the victim left his house about 7 am in search of labour work. The same day, one of the brothers of victim received a phone call from his friend informing him that Rustam has been hospitalized by policemen at Civil Hospital, Kaij in seriously injured condition. The petitioners, along with other relatives, went to the hospital when the policemen were shifting him to a hospital at Ambajogai. The petitioners joined the policemen and boarded the ambulance carrying the victim to the hospital at Ambajogai.
According to the petitioners, at that time, the victim was unconscious and kept on a ventilator with blood oozing from his mouth, ears and nose. On arrival at the hospital at Ambajogai, the doctors declared the victim dead.
The family was told by the policemen that victim was involved in various cases of mobile phone theft and sustained injuries when he attempted to escape from custody by jumping off police van while being transported to Koregaon.
Unable to believe the police version, the petitioners moved the high court after the case made no headway despite a departmental inquiry and CID probe.
The bench came across various infirmities in the police version as it noted that the real brother of the complainant Tejas Neharkar, who had complained of mobile phone theft, is working as a police constable and the Inquiry Officer/Deputy Superintendent of Police, Beed, has also passed some adverse remarks about him.
“Though deceased Shaikh Muhammed was brought to the police station at about 7.30 a.m., neither any entry about the same was taken in the register maintained at the police station nor he was kept in the police lock-up,” noted the bench.
‘Deceased tied like a cattle’
The bench also noted that the deceased was not kept in a lockup but tied with a rope to the office table, “in most inhuman manner (we restrain ourselves in saying that deceased Shaikh Muhammed was tied with the leg of office table like a cattle/animal)” and kept in that position till he was taken to his native place village Koregaon for recovery of mobile handset of the crime and in connection with the recovery of mobile handsets in different crimes registered with the same police station.
The bench also noted that the panchnama in the arrest was “highly suspicious” and noted, “Deceased Shaikh Muhammed was taken in the said police vehicle by police head constable Mr. Rathod (who was assigned with the investigation of theft complaint of mobile) accompanied by police naik Mr. Fufate and police naik Mr. Misal and even though deceased Shaikh Muhammed was in handcuff position, tied with a rope and made to sit on the chair in the middle portion of the police vehicle, by giving jerk, escaped and jumped from moving police vehicle. We find this as highly suspicious circumstance.”
The bench also doubted the version of independent witnesses who claimed to have seen the deceased attempting to escape from police custody and lack of opinion on contusions on his person.
It also raised the question on the report of the inquiry officer as it said, “We do not find that the Inquiry Officer/Deputy Superintendent of Police, C.I.D. Beed, has applied his mind to the facts and circumstances emerged during the course of inquiry. So also the report submitted by the Sub Divisional Magistrate is nothing but in verbatim re-production of observations made by the Inquiry Officer/Deputy Superintendent of Police, C.I.D. Beed.”
Referring to the Supreme Court decision in Lalita Kumari vs Government of Uttar Pradesh, the bench said, “In the instant case, after noticing the above infirmities, lacunae, suspicious circumstances and the fact that though during the course of inquiry of A.D., real brothers of deceased Shaikh Muhammed have made allegations about murder of their brother deceased Shaikh Muhammed as a result of custodial violence, we are of the considered view that the necessary directions are required to be given for registration of crime against those police officials i.e. Mr Shankar Rathod, buckle No. 502, Mr. R.V. Fufate, buckle No. 1277, and Mr. N. D. Misal, buckle No. 1490, then attached to Shivaji Nagar police Station, Beed, for the offence punishable under Section 302 r.w. 34 of I.P.C”.
The bench passed the following order: