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15 May 2004

People’s Union for Democratic Rights

“An Inquiry Worth Inquiring Into”
The Police Commissioner
Police Headquarters

Dear Mr. Commissioner,
You must be aware of the case of Tinku, the 19 year old boy who was tortured in police custody on the evening of 4th May 2004 at the Vivek Vihar PS. Tinku was apprehended by the police and an FIR was lodged under the Excise Act for illegal possession of liquor. Once in the thana he was beaten by both the SHO and SI, so much so that he has lost vision in his right eye. The following day when the family took him to Guru Nanak Eye Hospital, which referred him to LNJP for an MLC, the local cops landed up and tried to prevent the MLC from happening. The hospital was persuaded to conduct the MLC because the family knew someone. Currently, Tinku is undergoing treatment at Guru Nanak Hospital and the authorities have stated that it will take up to 6 months to ascertain whether the loss in vision is permanent or temporary.
You must be familiar with this case, as the family approached you on the evening of 7th with a complaint against the local police at Vivek Vihar PS. You ordered a vigilance inquiry into this incident and directed the Vigilance Department at Police Bhavan to do the needful. Accordingly, Mr. A. S. Grover, ACP Vigilance, conducted the inquiry.

According to the ACP, he has submitted his findings to you. Are you satisfied?
We have conducted an investigation into this incident; and the police story at the PS and the nature of the inquiry conducted by your ACP are motivated and incompetent. They don’t even make for amateur detective work, let alone serious police investigation. Consider the following points that your police made to us:

§ On the spot bail but no witnesses. The police version is that Tinku was caught on the road in possession of illicit liquor but was given bail on the spot. There are, however, no witnesses. This story is crucial to the police version as it exonerates the police from the allegation of torture. Do you believe this story, which your ACP believes in, that no witnesses were present to verify that the police had indeed given bail? The time according to them is around 9 p.m., a busy time of the evening. Do you think the police never tried hard enough to find witnesses or do you think that the story of ‘on the spot bail’ is rather an ingenious, albeit, weak one?
§ Injuries due to road accident and witnesses corroborate. According to the police, Tinku received injuries around his eye not because of police torture but because of a road accident that happened on 5th morning. Tinku was driving his motorcycle and it collided with a cycle rickshaw; he fell on the ground and injured himself. Tinku also paid the rickshaw driver some money for damages done to the vehicle. Your ACP stated that the doctors in Guru Nanak Eye hospital have said that the nature of the injuries could have been caused by blunt force. Hence, your ACP inferred that the fall from the motorcycle was the reason for his injuries. Witnesses are present for this. Mind you, this incident occurred on the road, and if, witnesses have stated that they saw it happen, how come no one came forward to see the benevolent police giving bail on the spot to an offender?
§ Tinku is faking his problem. The police disbelieve that Tinku has lost vision in his right eye even though he has made a written statement and the doctors have also confirmed it. The SHO said that he was faking it in order to frame the police. The ACP Vigilance said that when he met Tinku, the latter was fine and that there was no question of blindness. To begin with, is your ACP an omnipotent opthalmologist who can detect the ‘true nature’ of all eye problems? Isn’t this a case of an overdose of Hindi films? Moreover, why is the police so keen to deny Tinku’s loss of vision? Surely, if he had injured himself in an accident, then, it stands to reason that his loss of eyesight is related to the accident. Then, why, is the police strenuously hanging on to this story of Tinku faking his blindness?
§ Tinku is hardly following up his treatment. In order to prove that Tinku is faking the problem, the police, including your esteemed ACP, asserted that Tinku is not undergoing any serious treatment. Guru Nanak Eye Hospital asserts otherwise. Tinku has been regularly going for treatment and even on 18th May, when we met your ACP, Tinku was due for treatment in the afternoon. Your ACP claims that the doctors have not stated that Tinku has lost his vision and even after written queries, the answer has not been given. The medical authorities have stated that Tinku has lost his vision but it is premature to say whether it is permanent or temporary. If the authorities have said this to the general public (us), then why would they not say so to the police? Have the doctors been intimidated?
§ Need for another medical opinion. The local police and the ACP stated that the case requires another opinion. Why? Guru Nanak Eye Hospital is a government medical institution and is, in the present circumstances, the best possible place for undergoing treatment of eyesight related disorders. Why is the police unhappy with the treatment given to Tinku by this hospital? Is it because they are treating him for loss of vision? Is this the reason why your ACP let slip that the concerned doctor has refused to answer any further queries from the police and, instead, say whatever he has to, in court? Why would the doctor, according to your ACP, say such a thing to the police? Your ACP wanted to meet the doctors in our company! Isn’t this hilarious that the police needs the presence of general public to inspire confidence in government doctors?
§ The police have no answers as to why Tinku went for treatment at night on 5th May. Your ACP first gave us the contents of the allegation and then his inquiry in to the same. He, however, omitted a crucial fact: that Tinku went for treatment on the night of 5th May to a local doctor. According to the police version, Tinku was injured only on 6th morning in a road accident. So, how come he went to the doctor the previous night for treatment for much the same injuries? Your police has no answer for this, not even an ingenious one. A police investigation is meant to investigate, not create mysteries. Why did the ACP omit this?
§ Disbelieve the complainant but believe the accused. While the ACP perfunctorily said that there was no question of disbelieving the complainant, actually, that’s what he has done. Tinku stated that the police had tortured him and that his blindness is a result of that. The police have, instead, made another story quite at variance with what the complaint was, in order to prove that the police are innocent. Your ACP willingly believes that on the spot bail is done; but done for what? For possessing illicit liquor? Isn’t that a more serious crime as opposed to breaking traffic regulations? Your ACP believes that it is entirely possible for witnesses not being there to corroborate the fact of bail. Your ACP believes quite readily, doesn’t he? So, why is he so hard to please where Tinku’s statement is concerned? Why disbelieve his loss of vision, the reasons for his injuries and the medical reports?

Sir, this is a serious case of allegation of police torture and the manner in which the inquiry has been conducted leaves a lot of room for doubt. Besides, being motivated, it is shoddy and incompetent. And yes, it is motivated. The fact is that when there are allegations of custodial violence, the investigating agency (police) goes to any length to deny the charges. In this case, the matter of the boy belonging to the Sansi community makes the police’s denial easier. Since the community is framed in public perception as bootleggers who engage in illegal activities, it is easy to deny the truth behind the complaint. After all, Tinku is a saansi and had been apprehended doing exactly what the stereotype demands of him: carrying pouches of illicit liquor. Your police force is not above popular perceptions; in fact they reinforce them through communal policing and investigations.
One last thing: being far removed from the humdrum of daily policing, you are not aware of the conduct of thana in-charges and their colleagues. You, therefore, will not be aware of the fact that your SHO at Vivek Vihar PS is an extremely rude and abusive man who freely uses four lettered words (in Hindi) while speaking. Hasn’t your police force been taught elementary lessons in public dealings? If your SHO talks the way he does to us, who are educated and literate, what must he be like to those who are poor and illiterate?

Sir, we expect answers. We hope that, you have not closed this file, even though your ACP has. We hope that you will give us time to explain to us the gaps and silences in your investigations.

Looking forward to your response

Yours truly,

Shahana Bhattacharya
Secretary, PUDR