For A 1993 Custodial Death Case, SC Gives Seven Years Of Imprisonment To Nine Policemen
The Supreme Court on September 4 upheld the conviction of nine Maharashtra cops in connection with a 1993 custodial death case and extended their jail terms from three to seven years each.
Reportedly, a bench of Justices NV Ramana and MM Shantanagoudar upheld the order and said that incidents which involve the police tend to erode people’s confidence in the criminal justice system. While enhancing the prison term of the cops, the apex court said, “With great power comes greater responsibility,” reported Moneycontrol. The police personnel were found guilty under Section 330 of the Indian Penal Code which involves voluntarily causing hurt to extort confession or to compel restoration of property.
The case goes back to June 23, 1993, when a police team comprising an assistant police inspector, a sub-inspector and constables had picked up one Joinus Adam Yellamati on alleged charges of theft. It was alleged that the policemen then beat Joinus with sticks after tying him to a pole. Reportedly, he was taken to various locations before the police locked him up. However, the next day, Joinus was found dead in his cell. The incident took place at Deolapar police station of Nagpur in Maharashtra. A case of custodial death was registered against the cops soon after.
The trial court convicted the policemen and sentenced them to three years imprisonment. The Bombay High Court in 2007 upheld the order of the trial court as well. Upon challenging the court’s decision in the apex court, the bench extended their jail term to maximum and said that the Bombay High Court’s sentence was insufficient, reported News18.
The Supreme Court order
The apex court while delivering its verdict on the case, placed immense importance on the need for the police to use their powers in a responsible manner. According to The Indian Express, it said, “Those who are called upon to administer the criminal law must bear in mind that they have a duty not merely to the individual accused before them, but also to the State and to the community at large. Such incidents involving police usually tend to deplete the confidence in our criminal justice system much more than those incidents involving private individuals.” It also added that the police force needs to recognize and develop the concept of ‘democratic policing’ as well.
Custodial deaths in India
A custodial death is the demise of a person who is in the custody of the police or other authorities in prison. In India, the number of such deaths or cases of custodial violence is fairly high. According to a Times Of India report, over 1600 cases of custodial deaths were registered by the National Human Rights Commission between April 2017 and February 2018.
Earlier in July 2018, two police officers were sentenced to death and three other police officers were given a three-year sentence by a Thiruvananthapuram special CBI court for a custodial death that happened in 2005. The accused constables K Jithakumar and SV Sreekumar were found guilty of the custodial death of Udayakumar at Fort police station in Thiruvananthapuram in 2005. Three other officers, including former Fort assistant commissioner TK Haridas, former circle inspector EK Sabu and former sub-inspector Ajith Kumar were charged with conspiracy and have been given a three-year sentence. This was the first time serving police officers were given a death sentence.