Prosecute police personnel who admitted to custodial torture in Gujarat.
On 3 October 2022, the Special Operations Group (SOG) office picked up 43 Muslim men for allegedly pelting stones at a garba event in front of a Mosque in Undhela village, Kheda, Gujarat. On 4 October 2022, the police brought the men back to their village, and some of them were tied to a pole, flogged by caning, and beaten in public by several policemen. The video capturing the flogging, which went viral on social media, shows a crowd cheering at the violence. These men were then taken back to the Matar PS and charged under 13 sections of IPC. They were then sent to Bilodra Jail. For bail, they had to give surety of property documents and agree to conditions which barred them from entering Matar Taluka until 31 March 2023. The Minister of State for Home of Gujarat, Harsh Sanghvi, appreciated Matar PS for doing a “nice job”.
In a contempt of court filed by some victims, they claimed they were kept in illegal custody from 3 October 2022 to 4 October 2022. They were presented in front of the Magistrate on 5 October 2022. According to recent media reports, police personnel of Gujarat have filed affidavits in the High Court, admitting to the public flogging. In the affidavit filed by the police personnel of the Matar PS against the contempt of court case, they claim to have used the act of public violence to maintain peace and harmony in the area. In another affidavit, the claim is that their actions were in the discharge of their duties.
This admission does not surprise anyone, as the use of chauvinistic triumphalism by the police is apparent in the viral videos. The rhetoric of the affidavit filed by the police, pushing the usual narrative of not having done something with criminal intent, is not new. Violence in custody and especially against Muslims and other minority communities is apparent and widely reported. The most recent PUDR statement highlights the normalised and routine reliance of police on custodial torture during an investigation. However, little has been done to proceed against the guilty personnel in both Mohd. Khadeer’s case and the case in question.
The admission of the incidence of flogging as a spectacle to maintain law and order, as a deterrent, is important proof of the police resorting to extra-judicial, even unconstitutional, means of punishment far exceeding its ambit. It represents a potentially dangerous precedent of disregarding the rights of people in custody. It is a blatant violation of the D.K Basu order of the Supreme Court. The impunity faced by police personnel needs to be destroyed. A clear message needs to be given to all law enforcement who can detain people that custodial torture is unacceptable in any circumstance.
- The affidavit submitted by the police in the High Court is taken as an admission of guilt.
- FIR is filed against the concerned police personnel, and cases are proceeded against them for assault, aggravated assault and assault with intent to dishonour based on the widely circulated video evidence of the torture and the affidavits filed by the police personnel.
- The State should provide compensation immediately
- The Union Governrment should immediately ratify the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT), which India had signed in 1997.
Joseph Mathai and Paramjeet Singh