There are thousands of daily police brutalities that go unreported as survivors and victims’ families fear retribution and long-drawn legal cases.

Collage of Bennix, Jayaraj and Rajkumar, who are victims of police custodial violence
Delve Rights Thursday, August 26, 2021 - 19:10

On July 17, 2017, Vinayakan was standing near his bike and talking to his friends, when the police in Kerala detained him and his friend over some bike documents. However, the police reeled off a list of complaints against 19-year-old Vinayakan to his father, Krishnan — his son was talking to a girl, there were gold snatching cases in the area, and his hair was long. Though the police let him go, the young Dalit man took his own life the next day. It was only after Vinayakan’s death that Krishnan realised his son was tortured by the police while detained as there were severe injury marks on his body. To date, no policeman has been punished for Vinayakan’s death.

In August 2018, Anwar (name changed), who was working as a bus driver, had only enquired with the police in Bengaluru why they were arresting his neighbour. Anwar was, in turn, detained in a drug case, tortured for seven days until his arrest was officially recorded on the eighth day, in violation of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and other guidelines. As the case is still in court, Anwar said he is struggling to prove his innocence and find a job.

There are several other victims of police excesses and brutalities — father-son Bennix (31) and Jayaraj (58) from Tamil Nadu, small-time financier Rajkumar (49) from Kerala, and the two women who were detained along with him, Sreejith (26), Vineesh (32), Siby (40), Vijay Singh (26). There are stories of thousands of families and survivors that go unreported, mostly because they fear retribution and long-drawn legal cases if they take the police officials concerned to the court.

In most of these cases, the police detain the victims for inquiry, based on suspicion or on a whim. They then mercilessly inflict third-degree injuries on them using bats, lathis, boots, knees, elbow, bare hands — anything within their reach, and more than what a human body can withstand. Some eventually succumb to these injuries while in judicial custody, and others suffer in fear. They also threaten victims and survivors to remain silent when produced before the Magistrate.

“Under the law, the police cannot use force at all during interrogation. The law is clear that torture is a violation of fundamental rights. Technically, every time the police slap or rough up a person, even in a minor way, they are committing a crime,’ said Mihir Desai, a human rights lawyer.

People who are targeted most frequently are Dalits, Muslims and tribal people. Communal prejudices and caste biases also become the invisible drivers of custodial violence.

Though the police are becoming more powerful by the day, the Constitution guarantees the right to life and personal liberty, and even protection against arrest and detention in certain cases. Some of the rights include the right to talk to a lawyer and family, the right to remain silent, and the right to be informed of the charges against them, among others. The police need to be sensitised as part of their training, and if there is death in custody, the burden should shift on the police and not the family.

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