Expressing anguish over the recent alleged custodial death of a 34-year-old man, the Delhi High Court on Tuesday said custodial torture is a “calculated assault on human dignity” and “worst crime in the civil society.”
“Deaths in police custody are a recurring phenomena,” said Justice Siddharth Mridul, who got emotional while dictating the order.
He said custodial torture is a “naked violation of human dignity” and a “degradation that destroys self-esteem of the victim and does not even spare his personality”.
The court while pronouncing the order on the plea of victim Shahnawaz Chaudhary’s wife, Rabiya. took into account the National Human Rights Commission’s report that in the period between 2001 and 2014, over 14,200 custodial death occurred across India.
Justice Mridul also referred to President Pranab Mukherjee’s statement on growing incidents of intolerance and apprehension whether tolerance and acceptance of dissent were on the wane in the country.
Chaudhary’ wife has sought a special investigating team (SIT) preferably comprising officers from another state to probe the alleged brutal custodial violence and death of her husband.
According to the petition filed by his wife, the incident took place at Nand Nagri area of northeast Delhi on 7 September when the victim had tried to intervene in a road-side fight between a couple and police.
The court asked the SIT, set up on 17 October on its own by Delhi Police, to secure all the evidence related to the subject of FIR including the CCTV camera footage from the area in question, where the incident took place, and from the concerned police station.
“The SIT shall take into custody the duty rosters of the concerned police station and clearly define the roles of the policemen, who were on duty at the relevant time. Since the subject FIR has been registered against the unknown person, the SIT shall forthwith investigate and ascertain the identities of the said unknown persons,” the court said.
“The SIT shall file a comprehensive status report with regard to the alleged unnatural death of Shahnawaz Chaudhary before the next date of hearing,” it said, posting the matter’s next hearing for November 17.
Delhi’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party had accused the city police of brushing the matter under the carpet in a bid to protect its guilty police officers.