Prosecute police personnel responsible for the custodial torture and death of Mohd. Khadeer in Medak, Telangana.
People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) raises grave concerns over the death of Mohd. Khadeer, a 35-year-old man in Medak district, Telangana, on 16 February 2023. He was allegedly tortured by Telangana State police at the Town Police Station, Medak and subsequently died at Gandhi Hospital in Hyderabad. Police are denying that such an incident happened. Mohd Khadeer was a daily wage worker in Medak. The police claim that he was picked up from Yakutpura, Hyderabad, on 2 February 2023, where he was visiting his sister and from where he hailed. He was suspected of chain snatching and was identified by CCTV and facial recognition because his facial features matched or looked similar to the suspect in two cases registered in January. However, his family claims that he has no connection to the crime.
After establishing in the investigation that he was not involved in the case, he was let go on 3 February. However, in a video recorded at the Hospital, Khadeer claimed that he was picked up illegally and detained from 29 January 2023 to 2 February. His wife has also claimed that the police did not allow him to visit the hospital, and he was admitted only on 9 February 2023 in Medak to a local private hospital. She also claims that the police paid Rupees two lakhs for the treatment. After his condition worsened, he was taken to Gandhi Hospital in Hyderabad on 12 February 2023, where he was told that his kidneys were damaged.
Khadeer recorded his video statement at Gandhi Hospital on the day of his death. He said that he had gone through the ordeal of severe torture in police custody. He stated that when he denied the charges, he was hit with belts made from rubber tires and sticks, hung upside down, and given shocks by Sub-Inspector A Rajshekar and police constables K Pavan and R Prashanth. According to media reports, Mohd. Khadeer was unable to walk.
The DCP had denied claims of custodial torture at the Town Police Station, Medak. Sub-Inspector A Rajshekar was subsequently transferred to District Crime Records Bureau. Constable K Pavan and R Prashanth were transferred to Pegode PS and Papannapet PS. After an outcry on social media and crucial press intervention, the DGP Telangana, Anjani Kumar, has ordered an investigation by senior officials from Kamareddy district and disciplinary action against the police officials on 18 February. DGP’s office informed the media that IGP Chandrasekher Reddy would supervise the investigation.
The police personnel involved were suspended on 19 February 2023. On 20 February 2023, Telangana High Court took up suo motu cognizance of the case and initiated proceedings before a bench comprising Chief Justice Ujjal Bhuyan and Justice N. Tukaramji for the reasons stated in the news item published in the Indian Express Daily dated 19 February 2023. The matter has been adjourned to 14 March by the Court.
Police personnel guilty of brutality more often than not enjoy impunity and are helped by senior police officials. The investigation, when done by fellow police personnel, is most likely to be biased. Thus there should be a High Court-appointed judicial inquiry into the matter. If the investigation proves custodial torture leading to the death of Mohd Khadeer, these policemen should be held accountable and booked with murder u/s 302 of IPC.
Khadeer’s death via police custody exposes not only the routine reliance of police on custodial torture during an investigation but also the misplaced faith in CCTV and other technology to ensure that rights are not violated when police carry out arrests. Khadeer was wrongfully arrested before he was tortured and killed, and such wrongful arrests are exceedingly common since facial recognition technology is inaccurate and has been rejected in many countries. Such reliance on technology, increasingly used in policing, in the context of this kind of policing practice and tradition of custodial violence can be fatal. Mohd. Khadeer’s torture and death via police custody at the Town Police Station, Medak demonstrates this.
- The video statement of Md Khadeer should be recorded as a dying declaration.
- Prima facie, based on the evidence of the custodial torture for five days and the subsequent death, an FIR for custodial death should be lodged against the concerned police personnel and investigated as such.
- The State Human Rights Commission should enquire into this case and give recommendations on the case and on how such incidents should be prevented.
- A court-appointed judicial enquiry should be conducted on the case.
- The state should immediately provide compensation to the family.
Joseph Mathai and Paramjeet Singh