Stating that the law does not permit people to be beaten up in police custody even during interrogation, the Delhi High Court, while ordering an inquiry into the beating of two persons by police officials in January, on Monday said, “Let no one have to repeat the tragic last words like George Perry Flyod, Jr – ‘I can’t breathe’.”
George Floyd, an African-American, was killed by Minneapolis police officers last year during an arrest in May 2020, leading to widespread outrage. A video of the killing, showing a police officer keeping his knee on Floyd’s neck, had gone viral.
Justice Najmi Waziri made a mention of the murder while disposing of a petition seeking inquiry against officers of police post Turkman Gate, police station Chandni Mahal, Central District.
Mohd Areeb Umar and Umair Siddiqui, in the petitions filed through advocate M Sufian Siddiqui, said they were mercilessly beaten by Delhi Police personnel on January 25, and their complaint against police excesses led to no action.
Justice Waziri, in the order released on Monday, rejected the police submission that there was an “immediately preceding occurrence” which led to “strict action” being taken against Umar and Siddiqui. Police, in the hearing which took place on October 27, said they had acted only to break up the melee between the private parties outside the police station.
The court noted that an initial inquiry was conducted by the Inspector (Vigilance) and the matter has been closed as if nothing noteworthy or actionable happened. The petitioners told the court they were neither called or heard in any inquiry.
“To inspire confidence in an inquiry, fairness of the procedure adopted and examination of the substantive issues must be apparent. This fundamental principle has not been observed in the so-called ‘inquiry report’. Therefore, it is of no consequence,” said Justice Waziri in the order.
The court said a fresh inquiry is warranted as photographs and a video show the two men being repeatedly assaulted “by a posse of policemen who are in uniform and in civilian attire”.
“The violent pushing, punching and elbow strikes start the moment they enter into the precincts of the police station. The two civilians were not violent when they are walked into the said precincts. They possibly could not because they were surrounded and held by policemen. No unruliness or assault is seen on any policeman by the petitioner or his well-wisher. For the physical assault and beating given to the private individuals, there appears no immediate provocation, perhaps it was because of some pique of the policemen,” it added.
It further said punishment for an assault or a criminal act is to be determined by a court of law and the police cannot be a judge in its own case. “The assault by police on the petitioner and his associate is questionable. One can never be too vigilant about the rights of citizens being violated or any callousness or over-reaction by law enforcers which may lead to an unfortunate incident or tragedy,” reads the order.
The court ordered the DCP (Vigilance) to conduct an inquiry and hear the two men within four weeks.