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Thursday, July 29, 2021

Two policemen sentenced to life imprisonment for Karnal custodial death

The case pertains to the custodial death of one Bhuvan Dutt, a resident of Kalram village in Karnal. As per details available in the judgement copy, Bhuvan was picked up by Haryana Police as a suspect after two men arrested in a murder case had named him as an accomplice.

Written by Pallavi Singhal | Panchkula |
July 16, 2021 10:28:15 pm
While the CBI, which had later taken over the case, demanded capital punishment in the case, the court awarded life sentence. (Representational)

A special CBI court Friday convicted two policemen for the custodial death of a murder accused, who had been burnt alive inside the police station.

Both the policemen were handed life sentences by the court.

The case pertains to the custodial death of one Bhuvan Dutt, a resident of Kalram village in Karnal. As per details available in the judgement copy, Bhuvan was picked up by Haryana Police as a suspect after two men arrested in a murder case had named him as an accomplice. On July 24, 2007, a case had been registered for the murder of a photographer, Rajinder, in Karnal. On September 1, that year, Bhuvan was arrested by the Haryana Police after several raids and had sustained severe burns inside the police station that same day. He had succumbed to the injuries, three days later on September 4. (he was not admitted to PGI, there were alot of hospitals changed in between)

In his dying declaration, Bhuvan had stated to a judicial magistrate that the police had tortured and thrashed him when he refused to confess to the crime. Since he continued refusing his involvement in the case, constable Pawan Kumar, in order to extract a confession from him, had poured petrol on him and set him on fire. A case of suicide was initially registered, but a magisterial probe conducted after the statement declared that Bhuvan had died under suspicious circumstances. (I think we can remove this statement. It has been added at the end with complete history of case)

The convict, Pawan Kumar (42) has been held guilty and convicted of committing the offences under Sections 302, 342 and 348, read with Section 34 of IPC, whereas, co-accused Ranbir Singh (65) has been held guilty and convicted for offences under Sections 342, 348 and 218 read with Section 34 of IPC. Pawan was currently working as Head Constable in Traffic Thana, Sector 4 of Panchkula, while Ranbir Singh had been working as an inspector for the Haryana government.

While the CBI, which had later taken over the case, demanded capital punishment in the case, the court awarded life sentence while coming down heavily on cases of police brutality saying, “Law enforcers are protectors of life and property and not death dealers… The case touched a raw nerve among people because of determined legal battle to bring to justice to the killers of Bhuvan Dutt. It has prompted a public discussion on police brutality and led to widespread condemnation of third-degree methods. Death due to custodial violence is abhorrent and not acceptable in a civilised society. The offence committed by the accused is a crime not against the deceased alone but against humanity also. The convict perished at the prime of its age.”

Refuting the appeals made by the defence counsel for taking a lenient view considering the age, character and other antecedents of the convicts, the single bench of Special CBI Judge Sushil Kumar Garg observed that the men did not deserve any sympathy.

The Karnal police, with Sub-Inspector Ranbir Singh as the in-charge of the police station, had earlier filed an FIR ruling the case to be that of suicide. But after Bhuvan’s statement to the magistrate, the latter had directed a probe,which declared that Bhuvan died in suspicious circumstances. An inquiry by the sub-divisional magistrate of Karnal later ruled out that Bhuvan had committed suicide. The police had soon after, filed a closure report in the case.

Bhuvan’s brother Gobind had then filed a complaint against the police, including the then SHO Ranbir Singh. It said the SHO had demanded Rs 50,000 as a bribe from the kin of Bhuvan. After three years of trial, on April 27, 2010, a lower court of Karnal had concluded that death of Bhuvan was a case of custodial death and had asked that the real culprits be brought on record. Observing that it was a case fit for probe by an independent agency not subject to the control of local police and state machinery, an Additional District and Sessions Judge of Karnal, Haryana, Ravi Kumar Sondhi had requested the Punjab and Haryana High Court to direct the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to investigate the case.

The case was entrusted with the CBI on August 23, 2011.

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