Bombay high court (File photo)
MUMBAI: Bombay high court on Monday directed the Mumbai police commissioner within 24 hours to constitute a special investigation team to probe the death of a man allegedly due to police excesses.
“We are not at all impressed with the state of affairs,” said a bench of chief justice Dipankar Datta and justice Anuja Prabhudessai, while hearing a public interest litigation by advocate Firdause Irani on police excesses during the lockdown.
The court is looking into the death of Raju Devendra (22). The police had initially claimed he was lynched by a mob when he went to commit robbery at Nehru Nagar, Santacruz (west). On July 17, the police was rapped for not checking the CCTV footage to identify persons involved in Devendra’s assault. On July 31 they admitted that four policemen assaulted him with fibre lathis.
Government pleader Poornima Kantharia submitted a second probe report by the new investigation officer assistant commissioner of police (Santacruz division) Suhas Raikar. She informed that the previous IO ACP Dattaray Bhargude (Bandra division) was on sick leave since July 23 after testing COVID-19 positive. “If this officer has to go through the investigation de novo, do you see any light at the end of the tunnel?” the CJ asked. Kantharia replied, “Definitely there will be progress very soon.”
In their order, the judges expressed displeasure “at the manner in which investigation is being handled by the Mumbai police.” They noted that the second probe progress report submitted by new IO, who took over probe on August 14, shows he hasn’ been able to make much headway. “Since prima facie, there are allegations of police excesses committed on the deceased, we would have expected Mumbai police to complete the investigation with utmost expedition. However the situation that emerges leaves a lot to be desired.”
The judges said they have no option but to direct the CP to constitute the SIT “comprising two police officers of impeccable integrity and unquestionable competence.” They also directed all papers of the probe shall be handed to the SIT.
The judges said they hope and trust the SIT shall “fairly, freely and efficiently” complete the investigation and be in a position to file a chargesheet by the next hearing on September 21. If it is submitted to the competent court, a copy shall be forwarded to the High Court, they added.
Senior advocate Gopal Shankarnarayan, representing Irani, said there were 68 ante mortem injuries on Devendra. He said this was replicated on many occasions and there are videos showing brutal assault by police including on a couple riding bike person or person buying medicines for parents. “It shocks the conscience of the public,” he added. The CJ said,”There are a lot many of us who don’t care for lockdown guidelines. It may be just one side of the coin… Black.sheep are there everywhere.” The judges said some people who violate the law have to be dealt with a strong hand. ” Whether we can regulate the conduct of police? Enlighten us. Give suggestions we can put forward to the police,” said the CJ.