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Don't trivialise custodial death by internal politics: Delhi HC

Don’t trivialise custodial death by internal politics: Delhi HC

Delhi High Court today told AAP government and city police not to “trivialise” the issue of alleged custodial death of a 34-year-old man by their “internal politics” and asked why the policemen involved have not yet been suspended.

“I won’t allow cops or any other authority to trample over people’s rights. I am a sheep dog and my job is to make sure that certain inalienable rights enjoyed by all human beings are not violated,” Justice Siddharth Mridul said.

Disapproving the heated exchange of words between Delhi government standing counsel Rahul Mehra and Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Neeraj Kishan Kaul as to who would represent Delhi Police in the matter, the judge said “I don’t care a damn about it.”

The tussle between the Centre and AAP government has led the Delhi Police to appoint lawyers from outside the pool of advocates notified by the city administration to appear for the agency.

“Don’t trivialise the issue by your internal politics, because I don’t care a damn about it. Tell me what has been done with regard to the custodial death. What are you doing about the delinquent police officers? Why have they not been suspended,” the judge asked.

“I am only concerned with what has happened to the cops involved in the incident,” Justice Mridul said, adding that “inevitability of punishment would be the only deterrent against crime”.

Referring to the September 7 incident, the judge said nothing justifies such “barbarity” and added “this reprehensible conduct will not be condoned by the courts”.

As ordered by the court on October 20, the crime branch today submitted an affidavit saying the policemen allegedly involved in the incident have been transferred from the Nand Nagri area to the district lines. Preliminary departmental enquiry has also been initiated against them, it said.

The incident took place at Nand Nagri in north-east Delhi when the victim, Shahnawaz Chaudhary, tried to intervene in a roadside fight between a couple and the police, according to a petition filed by his wife.

Chaudhary was picked up by the police and taken to the police station. Later, he was taken to a hospital where he was declared ‘brought dead’. In the petition, Chaudhary’s wife has sought action against the officers involved and a compensation of Rs five crore.

She had also sought setting up of a special investigating team (SIT) to probe the matter, which was later set up by the crime branch.
Referring to the police affidavit, the judge said it

“reveals no information with regard to the perpetrators of the dastardly crime”.

In its October 20 order, the court had directed the SIT to “forthwith investigate and ascertain the identities” of the unknown persons against whom the FIR was lodged.

Today, it directed the police to comply with its earlier order “in letter and spirit” before the next date of hearing on December 2.

It also directed that “investigation into the unfortunate demise of Shahnawaz Chaudhary (victim), allegedly owing to police brutality and in police custody, must be concluded expeditiously and action in accordance with law be taken against the perpetrators thereof by Delhi police”.

During the hearing, the heated exchanges were witnessed when Mehra objected to the conduct of the police appointing another lawyer to appear in the matter when he was already appearing as per a Delhi government notification.

“Only one counsel can assist the court on behalf of Delhi police. ASG needs notification to appear for the state…I am notified to appear. He has no authorisation,” Mehra said and asked the judge that one of them be asked to leave the court.

The ASG objected to Mehra’s arguments saying his conduct was “obnoxious”, while the Delhi government lawyer retorted that the conduct of the police, of placing a lawyer on top of the one who was notified, was “obnoxious”.

While taking note of Mehra’s objection, Justice Mridul asked the government and police to not “squabble with each other” and instead put their “house in order”.

Referring to the saying that “Nero fiddled while Rome burned”, the court observed that the police and government were “not concerned with dousing the fire, but are concerned with pointing fingers”.

On October 20, the court had expressed anguish over the incident and had said custodial torture was “naked violation of human dignity” and directed the SIT to secure all the evidence related to the matter including the CCTV camera footage from the area where the incident took place.

However, the crime branch in its affidavit has said the CCTV near the spot was not working since August 9 and the cameras in the police station did not have recording facility.

It has also said that as per the post mortem report of the victim, he “died of asphyxia caused by compression of neck” and that as per medical evidence, it was not a case of natural death but of homicide.

( Source – PTI )

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