The State Crime Investigation Department (CID) has formally arrested six suspended policemen from Vadodara, who are accused in an alleged case of custodial death in Fatehgunj police station, after they tested negative for Covid-19 as per protocol. They will be in custody till September 11 noon.
The six personnel had surrendered before the CID on August 31 and were remanded to nine days in police custody based on the remand application filed by the CID in a local court in Vadodara. The six policemen were produced in the Vadodara court on Wednesday evening.
The accused are the then inspector of Fatehgunj police station DB Gohil, sub-inspector DM Rabari and Lok Rakshak Dal jawans Pankaj Mavjibhai, Yogendra Jilansinh, Rajiv Savjibhai and Hitesh Shambubhai.
Investigating officer, CID, SP Girish Pandya said that the department sought remand of the six officers on the grounds that the body of the victim was yet to be found. Pandya told this newspaper, “The main grounds for the remand were that we are yet to find the body of the deceased. also, the vehicles used for disposing of the body have to be found and taken for forensic analysis.”
After filing the FIR in July, the Vadodara police had confiscated a Maruti Swift car belonging to Head Constable Mahesh Rathwa, attached to the Fatehgunj police station, citing that it was used for disposing of the body. Rathwa, a key witness in the case, has not been booked as he was “unaware that his car was being used” to dispose of the body.
However, Pandya said that more than one vehicle was involved in the act. “Our investigation has revealed that more than one vehicle was involved in disposing of the body. We need to find the other vehicles and send them for forensic examination,” Pandya said.
Though Rathwa is not yet an accused in the case, the CID told the court that it needs to investigate the role of other police officers who were present at the Fatehgunj police station when the incident happened. Pandya said, “We have to ascertain if other officers were involved in the crime. In two-three days, we will take the six accused to Vadodara to reconstruct the sequence of events.”
The victim from Telangana, Babu Sheikh Nisar (65), reportedly went missing on December 10, 2019, after he was apprehended by the Fatehgunj police on suspicion of theft. Vadodara police FIR relied heavily on the statement of Assistant Head Constable Shaktisinh, who said that he saw Nisar tied to a chair with a belt and rope in the computer room of the police station, while the six accused tortured him to extract a confession of the theft.
Shaktisinh said that he saw the accused inserting a pen between Nisar’s fingers until he bled and “his voice faded away” and he “did not appear that he could be alive”, the FIR stated.
Pandya said that the six personnel left Vadodara together after being booked in the case filed by the Vadodara police, in which the complainant was Assitant Commissioner of Police (ACP) SG Patil of E Division of the city, and later dispersed to different parts of Saurashtra.
“They were hiding at their relatives’ homes. After taking over the investigation last month, the CID had formed four teams to track them down. While we were closing in on them, the Gujarat High Court also rejected the petition filed by them (Police Inspector DB Gohil) for quashing of the FIR. So they had no other option but to surrender,” Pandya said. Gohil filed a petition before the high court on the ground that the police were yet to ascertain if the said victim is “indeed dead”. The High Court ordered the case to be transferred to the CID based on a petition of Nisar’s son, Salim.