Seven months after the Bombay High Court said that the death of 25-year-old Agnelo Valdaris at the Wadala GRP police station was a prima facie case of custodial death, the CBI is yet to seek sanction from the Mumbai Police to prosecute the eight accused police personnel on charges of murder.
The accused, meanwhile, have approached the Supreme Court with a Special Leave Petition (SPL), stating that they were not given an opportunity to be heard before the HC in February, when it directed the trial court to charge them under Section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code.
“The rights of the petitioners are affected due to the finding of the honourable High Court as the petitioners were never served with a notice nor afforded an opportunity to explain their case…,” the petition stated. It added that the HC neither served a notice on the petitioners nor gave them the opportunity to explain the “true facts and circumstances in which the accused died after escaping from police custody”. The petition is yet to be admitted by SC.
HC on watch
The Bombay High Court, since 2014 when the petition was filed, has in various orders spoken about the lack of proper investigation in the case, prompting it to transfer the probe to CBI. Even after the transfer, in 2016, the court intervened stating that the CBI has not invoked proper sections in the chargesheet. This year again, HC intervention led to murder charges being added.
In April 2014, Agnelo, along with three others, including a minor boy, were apprehended by the Wadala Government Railway Police in a theft case. Following Agnelo’s death, the police had claimed that he was killed after colliding with a train while trying to escape from custody on April 18, 2014.
According to the chargesheet filed before the special court, those with Agnelo had told CBI that all of them were severely assaulted with belts at the police station with one of them being tied upside down. The men, including the minor, were also sexually abused. They further claimed that Agnelo was assaulted severely and could not have been in a position to escape.
The CBI had filed chargesheets against the accused under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act but maintained that it was a case of accidental death.
In February, the HC, on the basis of evidence, including the nature of injuries found on Valdaris, had said that it was a prima facie a case of custodial death and directed the trial court to frame charges under Section 302 of the IPC.
Since it is mandatory for an investigating agency to get a sanction to prosecute a government servant, the CBI had sought sanction against the eight police personnel in 2015 on charges other than murder. Since the murder charge was added this February, a separate sanction would be required to prosecute the police personnel under it.
A CBI official had last month said that the agency is awaiting the hearing of the SLP and further directions from the trial court.
However, Leonard Valdaris, Agnelo’s father, said: “The CBI can carry out its independent procedure as per law without awaiting the outcome of the Supreme Court order as there is no stay on the matter. The accused persons have not even been arrested so far despite such serious charges.”
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