Human rights panel orders probe against 2 DRI officials for ‘torturing’ Sikh trader

Businessman alleged the officials chopped off his beard when he refused to pay them bribe.

Written by Sukanya Shetty | Mumbai | Published: January 23, 2012 4:17 am

The Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has ordered a departmental inquiry against two senior Directorate of Revenue Intelligence officers for allegedly cutting off a Sikh businessman’s beard on his refusal to pay a bribe. Taking a serious note of the incident,the commission has observed that it was an act of “breach of human dignity” and was done to insult his religion.

The incident had allegedly taken place during a raid on Mahendrapal Gujral,a Juhu-based businessman,who dealt in foreign cars. He was arrested last June,following the raid on his residence by senior intelligence officer D S Mehta.

Mehta was allegedly acting on the orders of his senior C Jagiasi,an assistant director in the DRI. The DRI has registered a case against Gujral for dealing illegally in high-end foreign cars and the case is still pending.

However,raising doubts about the credibility of the case and accepting Gujral’s complaint of torture,the Division Bench of the SHRC,headed by retired Justice Kshitij Vyas and Justice Munshi,has ordered departmental action against two officers. The commission further ordered a departmental inquiry against the duo to be conducted by the Director General of DRI and appropriate action within three months.

According to Gujral,on June 1 last year,Mehta,along with another officer,whose name he has not mentioned in the complaint,had allegedly entered his residence and ransacked it. Gujral alleged that the search was conducted without following any procedures and he was abused and beaten up by the officers. He also said his relatives,present at the time,were abused and threatened by Mehta. However,the commission has rejected Gujral’s claim that the search was conducted without formal orders.

He said that he was taken to the DRI office where his beard was allegedly chopped off. Gujral stated that,“Mehta kicked on my right hip joint and Jagiasi took a pair of scissors and started cutting off my beard from the right side. Mehta also cut my beard to provoke my religious sentiments.” It added that all this happened after Gujral refused to pay a bribe of Rs 25 lakh.

The DRI,in an affidavit filed by P K Das,additional director general of DRI,Mumbai zone,denied the allegations. The Metropolitan Magistrate before whom Gujral was produced after his arrest took notice of assault marks on his body. On seeing his beard unevenly cut,the court directed the DRI to take him to J J Hospital,following which the allegations were confirmed. Gujral had to be released within two days.

“The DRI officers have clearly exceeded their lawful powers to interrogate a citizen by resorting to known methods of tortures,” the commission observed.

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