There has not been a single conviction in the past 15 years: HC
Pulling up the State government and investigating agencies for the apathy in dealing with custodial death cases in Maharashtra, the Bombay High Court recently remarked that the State ranked the highest in custodial deaths and there had not been a single conviction in any case in the past 15 years. The court said punishment for the guilty would act as a deterrent.
From 1999 to 2014, though there were 106 custodial deaths, only 13 FIRs were registered. Five policemen had been charge-sheeted and the conviction rate is zero.
Khwaja Yunus (27), a software engineer who came from Dubai in December 2002 to visit his family and died allegedly in police custody is a case in point. He was arrested by the Mumbai police for his alleged involvement in the Ghatkopar blast that claimed two lives and in which over 50 people were injured.
More than a decade since Yunus’s death, trial in the case against police officers is yet to start.
Yunus was holidaying at his native place at Parbhani when he was picked up by the Ghatkopar police and remanded in police custody under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) in 2003.
After three days of vomiting blood, Yunus is believed to have died in custody. The police version is that he ran away while he was being taken from Mumbai to Aurangabad in a jeep.
His parents filed a petition in the Bombay High Court, seeking a CBI inquiry and compensation. In 2004, an FIR was filed against one police inspector and three constables who were charged with conspiracy, destruction of evidence, and murder.
The case was transferred to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Nashik, which filed a charge sheet in 2009. The trial is yet to begin in the case.
In 2012, the Bombay High Court granted Rs.20 lakh to Yunus’s family but the kin wanted the State’s sanction to prosecute many high-ranking officers involved in his death.
His mother, Asiya Begum, 68, has been fighting a lone battle to get justice for her deceased son. Two special public prosecutors, R.B. Mokashi and Yug Chaudhary, appointed to represent police officials have quit citing personal reasons.
After several rounds to Mantralaya, letters to the Chief Minister and scores of Right to Information pleas to know the stage of investigation, the State appointed another SPP, Dhiraj Mirajkar, and the trial is slated to begin from November 23, 2015.
Custodial death cases in Mumbai
Aniket Khicchi (20), son of vegetable vendors at Kurla, was picked up by the Vanrai police when he was out with his friends for a movie. Khicchi had charges of robbery against him for allegedly picking up someone’s laptop from Goregaon Sports Complex. His father pleaded for a special public prosecutor to be appointed to look into his only son’s death. The trial is going on at the Sessions Court and is in the final stage.
Akash Kharde (23) was an accused in a murder case which took place in April 2014 and surrendered to the Samta Nagar police and died after three days in police custody. Although Akash’s brother stated he was seen limping, was brutally beaten up and assaulted by the police, the police claimed he had fallen in the lock-up and died. The State had suspended four constables and one assistant police inspector in connection with the case.
Agnelo Valdaris (25), a resident of BPT Colony, was arrested by the government Railway Police at Wadala in April 2014 for allegedly snatching a gold chain from a woman on a train. While the police say Valdaris was run over by a train while trying to escape, his father claims he died due to police torture while in custody. The Central Bureau of Investigation still seeks permission from the head office to register a charge sheet against guilty police officials.