Mumbai: Human rights body calls police's bluff, unravels custodial death mystery

While currently such probes are handled by state CID and Crime Branch, the SHRC has asked the police to refer all such cases to independent external agencies like CBI

Flour mill belt used to beat him up
Flour mill belt used to beat him up

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) got a morale booster from the Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission (MSHRC) yesterday. The commission lauded the agency for its investigation into the custodial death of a 40-year-old resident of Dhobi Ghat in December 2012 at the Dharavi police station, and ordered the state director general of police to sensitise his personnel on various human rights violations.

Julfar was allegedly thrashed by the Dharavi police while in custody in 2012
Julfar was allegedly thrashed by the Dharavi police while in custody in 2012

Chairman of MSHRC Justice SR Bannurmath and member MA Sayeed passed the order in the case yesterday based on the evidence and report compiled by the CBI.

A senior CBI officer said, "The commission directed the state director general of police to ensure that custodial death cases are referred to an independent investigating agency like the CBI, and the guidelines set by the Supreme Court to prevent custodial torture followed (see box: What SC says). The order also dealt with sensitising the police on human rights as well as awarding an interim relief Rs 1 lakh to the kin of the deceased."

Julfar's brother Menzel and son Noorhasan at the spot in Dharavi where he was picked up by the police
Julfar's brother Menzel and son Noorhasan at the spot in Dharavi where he was picked up by the police

The officer said the MSHRC also appreciated the extensive probe carried out by the CBI.

Killed by state?
Julfar alias Rafiq Kamu Shaikh, a resident of Dhobi Ghat in Cuffe Parade, was caught with fake currency amounting to R1.20 lakh on November 29, 2012. During his questioning, Assistant Police Inspector (API) Irfan Shaikh and his team from Dharavi police station allegedly beat him up with his bare hands as well as with a transmission belt used in flour mills in an attempt to get information out of him. On the fourth day of his alleged torture, he collapsed and died within hours.

All policemen involved in the custodial death continue to be in service, but have been given side postings. The criminal case — in which the CBI filed a supplementary chargesheet on July 21, 2015 — will come up before the 37th metropolitan magistrate court on September 4.

The Bombay High Court ordered the CBI to probe the death after criminal lawyer Yug Chaudhry moved a petition on behalf of Julfar's family.

The CBI charged API Shaikh and Police Naik Chandrakant Shirkar under sections 304 (part II) (culpable Homicide not amounting to murder), 330 (voluntarily causing hurt to extort confession) and 34 (one by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal Code.

According to the supplementary chargesheet, both Shaikh and Shirkar beat up Julfar with bare hands and with a flour mill belt with the knowledge that the beatings would cause injuries to Julfar.

The post-mortem examination report, the opinion of the medical board of Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education & Research, Chandigarh, the statements of witnesses established that the 21 external injuries on Julfar's body were caused by the police personnel.

Lawyer disappointed
Chaudhry, however, was disappointed with the quantum of compensation. "Is Rs 1 lakh the price of a human life? Is life so cheap?" he rued.

According to Chaudhry, not only were Shaikh and Shirkar not arrested but the flour mill belt and the hook to which Julfar was tied was also not taken into custody.

"The policemen accused of causing the death continue to be in service. The state has not even suspended them. We have come across umpteen custodial death cases, but not a single policemen has ever been arrested."

 

What SC says
A Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice of India YK Sabharwal, Justice BN Srikrishna and Justice RV Raveendran had set six guidelines while passing an order on the Sube Singh vs State of Haryana case in 2006.

 

>> Police training should be reoriented to bring in a change in the mindset and attitude of personnel in regard to investigations so that they recognise and respect human rights, and adopt thorough and scientific investigation methods.

 

>> The functioning of lower-level police officers should be continuously monitored and supervised by their superiors to prevent custodial violence and adherence to lawful standard methods of investigation.

 

>> Simple and foolproof procedures should be introduced for prompt registration of first information reports relating to all crimes.

 

>> Computerisation, video-recording, and modern methods of records maintenance should be introduced to avoid manipulations, insertions, substitutions and ante-dating in regard to FIRs, Mahazars, inquest proceedings, port-mortem 
reports and statements of witnesses to bring in transparency in action.

 

>> An independent investigating agency (preferably the respective human rights commissions or the CBI) may be entrusted with adequate power to investigate complaints of custodial violence against police personnel and take stern and speedy action followed by prosecution, wherever necessary.

 

>> Compliance with the 11 requirements enumerated in DK Basu (supra) (another earlier order in a similar case) should be ensured in all cases of arrest and detention.


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