HC asks 2 cops to face trial 23 years after torturing woman
MUMBAI: Police can’t torture an accused to extract information, the Bombay high court has ruled in a landmark judgment, and ordered two policemen to face trial for brutally assaulting a woman in custody 23 years ago.
Justice A I Cheema overturned a magistrate’s order in 1998 acquitting the two cops accused by the woman of brutally beating her up and pouring chilli powder dissolved in water into her private parts to force her to reveal information about the recovery of some gold coins in 1992.
Sub-inspector Sheshrao Thombre and constable Kacharu Rengade have been directed to appear before the magistrate on February 16 and asked that the trial be completed in six months.
Significantly, the court held that beating up an accused could not be treated as part of policemen’s duties. The police officers had claimed that they enjoyed immunity under the law for acts done while discharging their official duty. “It is quite clear that after taking police custody, although police could have interrogated the complainant, there was no right to beat her or commit acts outraging her modesty. Instead of resorting to scientific methods of questioning, such acts were resorted to,” said the judge.
He added that there was no material to show that a woman police officer was present at the time the woman was interrogated. Such acts can’t be treated as done under “colour or in excess of duty or authority” vested in the police officials.
The Bombay high court
Referring to a Supreme Court judgment, Justice Cheema said: “It cannot be said that custodial violence can be permitted in a civilized society.”
The victim, a resident of Basmatnagar in Aurangabad, was arrested on July 11, 1992, in connection with a treasure and the recovery of some gold coins. On July 18, when she was produced before the magistrate, she complained about the assault. She claimed the police had beaten her with a belt, the accused had stood on her thighs and that chilli water was put in her private parts—all for information about the location of the gold coins. A medical report found there were 13 injuries on her body, 11 of which had allegedly been inflicted during police custody. After a delay of over two years, the government gave sanction to prosecute the two cops and they were booked for causing injuries and outraging the modesty of a woman. The policemen moved an application saying they had immunity as section 161 of the Bombay Police Act says that a public servant or a government officer cannot be prosecuted for an act done while discharging his duty. The magistrate in 1998 held that section 161 applies in this case and the two officers were acquitted. The state filed an appeal against the acquittal. The HC said that section 161 would apply only when the acts are done in good faith and due care and caution was taken.