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Delhi: Seven-year jail for 4 policemen for torturing man to death

Delhi(PTI): A Delhi court has sentenced four Delhi Police personnel to seven years in jail for torturing to death a man in their custody in 1999 observing that they “snuffed out” a precious life and the victim’s cries cannot be forgotten.

While awarding the jail term to head constables Bhagwan and Ujjagar Singh and constables Shri Pal and Siyaram, the court said that being the custodians of law, they tortured a man at the police station to such an extent that he died.

“Cries of a man (deceased) within the four walls of the police station while undergoing extreme pain during torture cannot be forgotten,” Additional Sessions Judge Dig Vinay Singh noted in the order.

Proceeding against fifth accused, constable Chaman Lal, was abated as he died in 2006 during the pendency of trial. The court also asked the four convicts to pay Rs 2.5 lakh each to the family of the deceased while rejecting their request that they should not be sent to jail and instead the compensation amount be increased.

“… Already the society has an impression that usually the culprits of custody death do not even face trial and when in a rare case a culprit of custody death is found guilty, if such person is released lightly and sentence is not commensurate, society is going to get signals as if even the courts do not play their part in appropriately sentencing such offenders,” the judge said.

“Compensation to family of deceased has to be in addition to the substantive sentence and not in derogation thereof. The sentence should be such that it can act as deterrent even to other members of the police force,” the court said.

Referring to various verdicts of the superior courts, the judge noted that custodial death was perhaps one of the most “barbaric acts” and such cases “need a different approach while sentencing the offender”.

“A precious life was snuffed out by the convicts. Today the convicts claim the repercussions on their families if they are sent behind bars as a ground to take lenient view, but then they did not give a second thought when they were torturing the deceased,” the judge said in his 89-page order.

According to the prosecution, Mahender Singh was apprehended by five policemen posted at Alipur Police Station here for allegedly possessing counterfeit currency on August 15, 1999 and was kept in illegal detention.

The prosecution said that although no FIR was lodged in the matter Singh was found dead in the police station next day. After Singh’s death, an FIR was registered and after the probe, a charge sheet was filed against the five cops in 2002.

The court, in its verdict, noted that the convicts have not remained in custody for even a day and were charge sheeted without arrest.

The four cops were held guilty under section 304 part II (culpable homicide with the knowledge that injury may cause death) read with section 34 (common intention) of the IPC.

“… The prosecution had succeeded in proving its case against all the four accused that they gave beatings to the deceased and tortured him to an extent that knowledge can be imputed on them that they were likely to cause death of Mahender while he was kept in illegal detention on August 15, 1999, and caused his death,” the court said.

It also rejected the contention of the convicts that being policemen, they enjoy protection from prosecution under section 197 of CrPC as they were discharging official duty.

“It was no part of discharge of duty or colour of duty of any of the four accused in wrongfully detaining, confining and torturing the deceased that too without there being any registered FIR by the time,” the court said.

It also noted that these convicts tried to cover up the case by showing that Singh’s body was found on roadside which reflected “culpable mental state of the accused”.

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