16 May 2023 4:28 AM GMT
The Supreme Court of India on Monday issued notice in a plea for a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into an alleged fake encounter of a Dalit youth, Lovely Kandara, by the Jodhpur police. This special leave petition, which a division bench of Justices Abhay S Oka and Rajesh Bindal has agreed to hear, was filed by Kandara’s mother against the Rajasthan High...
The Supreme Court of India on Monday issued notice in a plea for a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into an alleged fake encounter of a Dalit youth, Lovely Kandara, by the Jodhpur police.
This special leave petition, which a division bench of Justices Abhay S Oka and Rajesh Bindal has agreed to hear, was filed by Kandara’s mother against the Rajasthan High Court refusing to direct a CBI investigation into the October 2021 killing of the 30-year-old.
While the police claim that Kandara – a history sheeter wanted in several criminal cases – was killed after he and his associates tried to evade capture in an XUV and even started firing at the police personnel, the family members say that he was gunned down by the police in a fake encounter because of his caste location. “The feeling of caste superiority is deep-rooted in the state and the local police is also not aloof,” the petition states, outlining the petitioners’ version of the events leading up to Kandara’s death. It has been alleged that Kandara was murdered by one Leela Ram, the station house officer (SHO) of Rajasthan’s Ratandada with the help of three other constables after chasing him down in private vehicles. This, the petitioner has alleged, was a criminal conspiracy to settle scores since Kandara had been in an altercation with another person who belonged to the same caste as the station house officer.
After Kandara’s death, the police filed a complaint claiming that he had tried to obstruct police work and fatally attack the police personnel. This report has, however, been assailed as ‘false and baseless’ in a complaint lodged by a relative before a special court under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Subsequent to the incident, two videos went viral – the first of a man, who claimed to have been with the deceased at the time, alleging that the SHO had come from behind and started firing at Kandara and the others, and the second, of a CCTV footage released by the authorities to substantiate their contention that the wanted ‘criminal’ had tried to evade capture, which is what led to his eventual demise.
Kandara’s death led to demonstrations staged by the Valmiki community in the state and the suspension of the station house officer and the three constables, even though they were reportedly reinstated later. Meanwhile, despite repeated representations, the police allegedly refused to file a first information report (FIR) at the behest of the bereaved family members. In light of this, an application under Section 156(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure was filed by one of the relatives of the slain youth and a local magistrate directed the police to register an FIR. At the same time, the state government also allegedly requested the Centre for an enquiry by the CBI. “However,” the petition states, “None of these happened.” The petitioner has claimed that neither did the CBI take up the case, nor was any FIR registered by the local police. She has added that the ground on which the police refused to register an FIR was that another complaint was recorded with respect to the same incident. Not only this, when the petitioner approached the Rajasthan High Court, after adjourning it multiple times, the court ‘dismissed’ the writ petition on a day on which the petitioner was unrepresented.
“The investigating officer submits that five accused persons have already been arrested in this case and the investigation has already been concluded. Now he is going to submit a report under Section 173 CrPC before the competent court,” a high court bench of Justice Manoj Kumar Garg noted while declaring that the criminal writ petition had become ‘infructuous’. However, the single-judge bench allowed the petitioner the liberty to “file an appropriate application before the competent court” to be considered in accordance with the law. “Hence, the criminal writ petition is hereby disposed of,” the bench concluded.
The petitioner has asserted that the facts in the present case warranted intervention by the apex court in the form of a direction to the Central Bureau of Investigation to take over the enquiry into the death of Lovely Kandara. The affidavit states:
“The video footage of the incident, more than ten injuries on the upper part of the body of the deceased, manner of the incident as explained by the police, and the statement of witnesses clearly established that the son of the petitioner was killed in a brutal manner and as [an act of] revenge…The writ petition was dismissed by the high court on the day when the petitioner was not represented by any advocate. The order has not taken note of the flagrant violation of law and a command of the court. The high court has failed to appreciate that the investigation is tainted since it has been carried out on the concocted story of the accused Leela Ram himself. As a constitutional court, the high court should have taken note of the violation of the magistrate’s order and the Rajasthan government’s order for CBI enquiry.”
Normally, requests for such enquiries are not granted by the court unless sufficient reasons are found, the petitioner has acknowledged. However, after describing the aforesaid grounds, she has insisted, “This is a fit case for CBI enquiry, registration of separate FIR on the complaint of the petitioner, and even further enquiry even if the local police files a charge sheet as stated in the impugned order.”
The top court bench issued notice in the petition filed by Kundara’s mother today, directing the respondents, including the Union of India, the state of Rajasthan, the National Human Rights Commission, and the state human rights commission, to file their responses within Monday, July 10.
The petitioner was represented in court by Advocate Shivam Singh and the petition has been filed by Advocate-on-Record (AoR) Gopal Singh.
Usha v. Union of India & Ors. | Special Leave Petition (Criminal) No. 5367 of 2023
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