SC Stresses On Need To Develop And Recognize ‘Democratic Policing’ Concept; Enhances Punishment To Cops Involved In Custodial Torture Case [Read Judgment]

SC Stresses On Need To Develop And Recognize ‘Democratic Policing’ Concept; Enhances Punishment To Cops Involved In Custodial Torture Case [Read Judgment]

It may not be out of context to remind that the motto of Maharashtra State Police is "Sadrakshnāya Khalanīghrahanāya" (Sanskrit: "To protect good and to Punish evil"), which needs to be respected. Those, who are called upon to administer the criminal law, must bear, in mind, that they have a duty not merely to the individual accused before them, but also to the State and to the community at large.

While upholding the conviction of some police officers involved in a custodial torture which led to the death of a man, the Supreme court stressed on the need to develop and recognize the concept of democratic policing’ wherein crime control is not the only end, but the means to achieve this order is also equally important.

The Judgment authored by Justice NV Ramana, for the bench also comprising of Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar was prefaced as follows: “At the outset it is important to note that our police force need to develop and recognize the concept of democratic policing, wherein crime control is not the only end, but the means to achieve this order is also equally important. Further the turn of events, in this case, obligates us to re­iterate herein that be you ever so high, the law is always above you!

The police officers in Maharashtra who were patrolling took one Joinus, a theft suspect, to custody at 1 am midnight. It is alleged that the police party tied Joinus to an electric pole outside and was beaten by the police personnel with sticks. He was intermittently beaten while being taken to various places. He was locked up at 3.55am that day and on the next day, he was found dead. The Trial court convicted these police officers and sentenced them to 3 years imprisonment. The High court upheld a conviction under Section 330 IPC.

Before the Apex court (Yashwant vs. State of Maharashtra), one of the issues raised was whether the incident n amounted to murder so as to attract Section 302 of IPC? Perusing the evidence on record, the court held that the causal link between the injuries caused to the deceased by the erring officers and the death is not connected.

The 1st accused police officer had died and the proceedings against them had abated. The other accused cops pleaded that they were merely executing the orders of 1st accused. In this regard, the bench said: it is not merely that the accused-appellants have to prove that they have followed the order of the superior officer (accused A-1), rather they need to also prove to the Court that the aforesaid appellants bonafidely believed that the orders issued by accused A¬1 were legal.

Observing that this argument is taken only before the Apex court, the bench said: “It was not even their case from the beginning that the accused-appellants were not aware of facts and circumstances, rather all of them started out as an investigation party with full knowledge and participation. On the perusal of the record, we may note that this argument is only taken before this court, to seek a re-trial and such an attempt cannot be taken into consideration herein”

 The bench also observed that it is clear that the police knew the identity of the deceased was different from the person, they wanted to investigate initially and the manner in which the deceased and his family members were taken into custody reflects the pure act of lawlessness and does not befit the conduct of the Police.

The factual narration of the events portrayed herein narrate spiteful events of police excessiveness. The motive to falsely implicate Joinus for a crime he was alien to was not befitting the police officers investigating crimes. The manner in which Joinus was taken during the late night from his house for investigation ignores the basic rights this country has guaranteed its citizen. It is on record that injuries caused to the individual were in furtherance of extracting a confession. The malafide intention of the officers-accused to undertake such action are writ large from the above narration, which does not require further elaboration, the bench added.

Modifying the sentence imposed to seven years imprisonment, the bench said: “As the police, in this case, are the violators of law, who had the primary responsibility to protect and uphold law, thereby mandating the punishment for such violation to be  proportionately stringent so as to have effective deterrent effect and instill confidence in the society. It may not be out of context to remind that the motto of Maharashtra State Police is "Sadrakshnāya Khalanīghrahanāya" (Sanskrit: "To protect good and to Punish evil"), which needs to be respected. Those, who are called upon to administer the criminal law, must bear, in mind, that they have a duty not merely to the individual accused before them, but also to the State and to the community at large. Such incidents involving police usually tend to deplete the confidence in our criminal justice system much more than those incidents involving private individuals. We must additionally factor this aspect while imposing an appropriate punishment to the accused herein. In the facts and circumstances of this case, the punishment of three-year imprisonment imposed by the Trial Court under Section 330 of IPC, would be grossly insufficient and disproportional. We deem it appropriate to increase the term of sentence to maximum imposable period under Section 330 of IPC i.e., seven years of rigorous imprisonment while maintaining the fine imposed by the Trial Court.

 Read the Judgment Here