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‘Police brutality’ case: Eyewitness says cops didn’t record statement, Delhi HC slams SIT probe

The victim, Shahnawaz, had died while in police custody after trying to intervene in a roadside argument on September 7.

Two months after the death of a 35-year-old man in Nand Nagri, allegedly due to police brutality, a resident of the area told the Delhi High Court Wednesday that though he was an “eyewitness” to the incident, the police were yet to record his statement.

The victim, Shahnawaz, had died while in police custody after trying to intervene in a roadside argument on September 7.

During Wednesday’s hearing, the high court Bench of Justice Siddharth Mridul showed its displeasure at the manner in which the special investigation team (SIT) was investigating the alleged police brutality. The court observed that it was “getting the impression that the investigation thus far has been focused on exonerating the police rather than finding the guilty”.

The Delhi Police had constituted the SIT, under supervision of Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime Branch) Rajiv Sharma, after Shahnawaz’s wife Rabia filed a writ petition seeking compensation and investigation by an independent agency.

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The sub-divisional magistrate’s report on the incident had noted that Shahnawaz, who had sustained 23 injuries, was brought dead to the hospital. Bystanders had recorded a video of the incident, which was widely circulated.

Zahid Ahmed, a Nand Nagri resident, told the court that he had tried to get in touch with the SIT “five times” and had even been put in touch with Assistant Commissioner of Police Sukhvinder Singh, but his statement had not been recorded.

Both the petitioner and the Delhi government sought court orders to transfer the investigation to the CBI.

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“At this moment, I am more concerned with ensuring that every conceivable witness is examined,” observed the bench, which then directed the Registrar Appellate of the high court to personally escort Ahmed to the court of the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate at Karkardooma district court to record his statement.

The bench also viewed the CD placed on record by the petitioner and the video submitted by the SIT, amid claims that the probe team had “tampered with” the video. After an in-chamber viewing of both videos, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, representing the petitioner, told the court that the video taken on record by the SIT had “cut out the first 30-40 seconds” where Shahnawaz was allegedly being beaten by the police personnel, but had kept the part where he had fallen unconscious.

The comments were made after DCP Sharma presented the sealed copy of the status report on the investigation to the Bench and claimed that Shahnawaz “did not have any external injuries,” on his head or neck which could explain his death. However, the bench commented that the SIT was “drawing conclusions for which there is no evidence.”

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The court also asked the SIT to explain why no steps had been taken to exhume the body for a second post-mortem, after the DCP claimed that the first report “did not disclose” injuries that could explain the death. Senior advocate Kirti Uppal, appearing on behalf of the Delhi Police, also came under censure by the bench after seeking orders to “constitute a medical board to re-examine the post-mortem report” by taking a look at the video recording of the first post-mortem.

“The post-mortem should be done on a body and not on the basis of the video of the post-mortem,” observed the bench, which has for now declined to issue any orders.

Irked that the SIT report had not disclosed the names of the police personnel clearly visible in the video of the incident, the Bench also asked the DCP to mark the names of the personnel on the video grabs printed by the petitioner.

The police informed the court that Sub-Inspector Manzoor Hussain, Constable Deepak, Udaiveer, SI Tej Singh, and Constable Anita, who had been identified from the video, had been suspended and transferred from the Nand Nagri police station.

The Delhi government’s Standing Counsel Rahul Mehra and Additional Standing Counsel Richa Kapoor also pointed out several “discrepancies” in the investigation and supported the petitioner’s demand to transfer the investigation to the CBI.

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The Bench has asked the counsel to submit legal precedents where the investigation could be transferred to a different agency by the high court. The court will now hear further arguments from Gonsalves.

First published on: 03-12-2015 at 03:10:30 am
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