What has happened in Tamil Nadu’s Thoothukudi district is worse than the Nirbhaya case for which four persons involved were hanged early this year.
A father and son, P. Jeyaraj and Bennicks, who ran a mobile accessory shop in Sathankulam town in Thoothukudi were arrested by some policemen allegedly for keeping the shop open defying the lockdown norms. They were then taken to the police station and brutally assaulted, by forcibly thrusting a rod or sticks into their private parts (as they profusely bled from their rectum, needing three change of clothes). They later died.
In the Nirbhaya case, too, a rod was thrust into the private parts, but it was done by civilians. Here, it was done by policemen, whose duty is to uphold the law and protect citizens. Thus ‘rakshaks’ turned into ‘bhakshaks’.
In Prakash Kadam vs Ramprasad Vishwanath Gupta, 2011, the Supreme Court held that policemen found guilty of fake encounter should be given the death penalty, treating it as a ‘rarest of rare’ case. The court observed:
“Policemen are persons who are supposed to uphold the law. In our opinion, if crimes are committed by ordinary people, ordinary punishment should be given, but if the offence is committed by policemen, much harsher punishment should be given to them because they do an act totally contrary to their duties.”
So if the Nirbhaya accused were hanged, so should the policemen in the Thoothukudi case, if held guilty by the court.
It may be mentioned that instances of custodial deaths have been mounting in our country, as noted by the Supreme Court in its landmark decision in D.K. Basu vs State of West Bengal, 1996. Hence, Section 176 Criminal Procedure Code was amended and a special procedure created for investigating custodial deaths.
For ordinary crimes, investigation is done by the police. But for custodial deaths, Section 176 provided that investigation is to be done by a judicial magistrate. The purpose of making this special provision for custodial deaths was obvious—the police may not conduct a fair investigation against a colleague (as there is often a tendency for people in the same service to gang up against victims).
However, there is nothing in Section 176 which says that policemen accused of custodial death cannot be arrested before the inquiry by the magistrate is completed. In fact, in cases of murder, the police usually arrests the accused immediately, and does not wait to do so until the investigation is over.
It is surprising that the accused policemen have only been suspended. They should have been arrested, as was done to the killers of George Floyd in the United States. The inquiry and trial should thereafter be completed expeditiously, and if the accused are found guilty, harsh exemplary punishment must be given, so that policemen throughout India know that they cannot continue behaving as they did during the British Raj.
Admin’s Note: Justice Markandey Katju retired from the Supreme Court in 2011. Did you read this post in length? Then we think you would like to signup and join us here at Indian.zone - a community for intellectual, creative and passionate people. Post your own blogs to be featured on our Facebook page to millions of users.