PODIYAM Panda, former sarpanch of Sukma’s Chintagufa village, who the police allege is a Maoist, appeared before the Bilaspur High Court on Monday, declaring he had ‘voluntarily surrendered’ to the police. His wife Podiyam Muiye, the present sarpanch of the village, had earlier filed a Habeas Corpus petition alleging that Panda had been picked up by the police and that he wasn’t a Maoist but a CPI worker who was stopped from meeting his family.
In court on Monday, Panda said that he had ‘surrendered to the police’ voluntarily and that he was not under any pressure from the police. A press release issued by Additional Superintendent of Police, Sukma, Jitendra Shukla said that Panda told the court he had not been assaulted in police custody. The release also states that Panda told the court that lawyers and activists of the CPI had forced his wife to file a Habeas Corpus case.
On Monday, Panda’s wife told mediapersons that contrary to police accusations, she had not been forced to file a case. A statement issued by Delhi University professor and rights activist Nandini Sundar, however, said that several Supreme Court judgments have said that a statement made in court by someone in police custody, and who will return to police custody “cannot be relied upon”. Sundar added that when Panda’s wife was allowed to meet him briefly, he told her that he was being tortured, “and that it was apparent to her that he was under tremendous pressure”.
Responding to the police’s allegations that Panda told the court that his wife was misled into filing the petition, her lawyers said, “No one made such statements in court, as can be verified from the court record. Such misleading information is not only mischievous but also in contempt of court proceedings.”