High court raps cops over 2 ‘brutal custodial deaths’

India on 24 June 2014
Location : India | Source : Times of India.

The Bombay high court on Tuesday slammed the police over two separate cases of alleged custodial killings in Mumbai, saying such incidents reflect "a sorry state of affairs" which "cannot be condoned".

A division bench of Justice V M Kanade and Justice P D Kode ordered Mumbai crime branch to lodge an FIR against Wadala railway police officers over the alleged custodial death of 25-year-old Reay Road youth Agnello Valdaris. Later in the day, the same bench also directed the crime branch to file an affidavit detailing its steps after lodging an FIR against five Samata Nagar cops over the custodial killing of another youth, 23-year-old Akash Kharade from Kandivli. Both deaths took place within a few days of each other in April 2014.

"Why assault a boy in his 20s in such a brutal manner?" asked the judges in the Kandivli case. "You have a right to arrest an accused. You have a right to prosecute him. But you have no right to take the life of a person. Why are cases of custodial killings on the rise?" they asked.

In the Wadala case, the judges rapped the authorities for failing to take timely action. "Every citizen, even if he is an accused, has rights under the Constitution and the state should not violate these. If such is the tendency of police officers, strict action should be taken. Why are they being protected?" they asked and noted the complaints of parents and co-accused in the case who claimed they were being pressurized to withdraw them. "We are distressed to see the police, tasked with protecting the rights of people, threatening them instead," the court observed.

In the Wadala case, the high court asked the crime branch to invoke provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act over allegations of sexual abuse. The court asked the state to hand over post-mortem and other medical records to the victim's parents and restrained the accused police officers from trying to contact families of the victim or the co-accused in the case. The director general of police has been asked to monitor the probe. Advocate Yug Chaudhry alleged that no action was taken despite complaints.

Wadala railway police had picked up Agnello and three others, including a minor, on the night of April 15 from Reay Road for allegedly stealing a gold chain worth Rs 60,000. The complaint alleged that they were sexually assaulted and tortured in custody. On April 18, Agnello was found dead. Wadala GRP has claimed that Agnello was run over by a train while trying to flee.

In the Kandivli case, Kharade had surrendered to the police in a murder case on April 18. On April 22, he was found dead in the lock-up. While the police claimed he had suddenly collapsed, his family alleged he was brutally tortured and even the skin of his back was peeled off. Advocate Husen Shaikh told the high court that though an FIR was lodged, no proper action was being taken.

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