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Vadodara ‘custodial death’: HC disposes of habeas corpus plea

The HC order comes a fortnight after the State Crime Investigation Department (CID) filed a chargesheet against six policemen for the alleged murder. The chargesheet also booked two other police personnel as accused.

Written by Sohini Ghosh , Aditi Raja | Ahmedabad, Vadodara | Updated: December 9, 2020 8:14:38 am
A veteran practising advocateA view of the Gujarat High Court. (File Photo)

The division bench of Gujarat High Court on Tuesday disposed of a habeas corpus petition filed by the son of Babu Nisar Shaikh, a 65-year-old migrant worker from Telangana who was allegedly killed at the Fatehgunj police station in Vadodara. Shaikh had gone missing on December 10, 2019, after he was apprehended from Fulwadi area on suspicion of theft.

The HC order comes a fortnight after the State Crime Investigation Department (CID) filed a chargesheet against six policemen for the alleged murder. The chargesheet also booked two other police personnel as accused.

Two policemen, Dilipsinh Rathod, then Police Sub-Inspector, and Mahesh Rathwa, Assistant Head Constable, were then attached to the Fatehgunj police station. They are “absconding”.

The chargesheet filed by the CID, a copy of which is with The Indian Express, has added charges under 10 additional sections of the IPC including 330 (voluntarily causing hurt to extort a confession), 348 (for wrongful confinement to extort a confession) and 466 (forgery of record of court or public register).

The six arrested policemen —Police Inspector D B Gohil, police sub-inspector D M Rabari and Lok Rakshak Dal jawans Pankaj Mavjibhai, Yogendra Jilansinh, Rajiv Savjibhai and Hitesh Shambubhai — were, earlier booked under IPC Section 302 (murder) owing to a court order.

The additional charges, officials said, pertain to the role of Rathwa and Rathod. Rathwa, in his statement to the investigators, had claimed that one of the accused, Pankaj, had confessed before him that Nisar was killed in the police station and they took Nisar’s body in Rathwa’s car between 2 am and 3 am on December 11 to “burn it” on the Mahisagar riverbank. The accused had returned Rathwa’s car the following day, but when he had questioned them about the soiled seat covers, the accused allegedly told him that they had driven on a dirt patch for an official raid. The Vadodara police did not book Rathwa in July to make him a “witness” but Rathwa subsequently retracted his statement before a magistrate, police said.

Meanwhile, Rathod had conducted a “parallel inquiry” in favour of the officers and submitted a report to the department giving the officers a clean chit, despite having no authority to do so. An officer said, “Rathod, at the insistence of the accused, had initiated an inquiry into the “missing” complaint filed at Sayajigunj police station for Nisar. The accused, in collusion with Rathod, had forged documents and altered police station records to show they had let him go and even searched for the accused independently by visiting his native state Telangana and also Maharashtra, where his family resides.” The officer added the inquiry report submitted by Rathod was “rejected” and a notice issued to him for “exceeding power”.

Superintendent of CID, Girish Pandya said, “Rathwa was aware that the accused had used his car to dispose of the body… Rathod colluded with the accused to conduct a parallel inquiry in their favour to cover up the crime. In the process, they also tampered with electronic and documentary evidence at the station.” Pandya said the CID has fanned out across Gujarat to track Rathod and Rathwa. “We will file a supplementary chargesheet, once they are arrested,” Pandya said.

A Vadodara police official said the six arrested policemen had also prepared a complaint of theft against Nisar on the day he was picked up by calling in Satish and Mukund Thakkar, in whose house a theft was attempted in Chhani TP-13 area. But they destroyed its hard copy which Thakkar had signed as well as the soft copy.

“They did not make the entry of the FIR in the system. It could be because probably by the time, Nisar was dead from the torture and they were in a hurry to make the ‘B’ row entry in the physical station diary to state that they had let him (Nisar) go,” an official said, adding, “Police made a mistake by taking Rathwa to depose before a magistrate, where he retracted his statement. As per CrPC, policemen do not need to be produced before a magistrate as they are bound to know the law and are under obligation to give true statements.”

Dismissing the habeas corpus petition, the HC Tuesday observed the limited purpose of such a petition — which requires the person to be produced — had already been fulfilled. Salim had also requested for an interim compensation, eligible under the provision of custodial deaths, before the HC. While the same is under consideration before the earlier bench, the present bench allowed the family to approach the sessions court with the same request.

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