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Breaking of impunity in custodial death of Shyamu Singh, Uttar Pradesh in India

Posted by Lenin Raghuvanshi
June 21, 2017

After Shyamu Singh, a resident of Panihowar village, died in police custody at Kwarsi police station on April 15, 2012, in Aligarh district, Uttar Pradesh, police said that Singh had committed suicide. But his brother, Ramu Singh, who was arrested with him, said that after being arrested they were both stripped down to their underwear and tortured:[The police officers] put us down on the floor. Four people held me down and one man poured water down my nose continuously. I couldn’t breathe. Once they stopped on me, they started on Shyamu. Shyamu fell unconscious. So they started worrying and talking among themselves that he is going to die. One of the men got a little packet and put the contents in Shyamu’s mouth.

Family members filed a police complaint against seven police officers alleging death due to torture. Since that time, the police have repeatedly stalled efforts to ensure accountability. Ramu told Human Rights watch that he faced threats and harassment by the police for pursuing his brother’s case: The police used to tell me I have become a sore wound for them that needs to be cut out: “You have become that for us. Beware or the same thing that happened to Shyamu will happen to you.

PVCHR provided psychosocial support to Ramu, brother of Shyamu through testimonial therapy and continuous legal support since 2012. In January 2017, again PVCHR team met with families of survivor as follow up of case with support of UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture and offered psychosocial support based on active listening and empathy. We collected all facts and again intervene at National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in existing case number 12170/24/3/2012-ad. NHRC issued notice with direction for compensation of one hundred thousand rupees to the next of kin of the deceased Shyamu. NHRC direction says, “ These proceedings shall be read in continuation of earlier proceedings of the Commission dated 22.03.2017 vide which a reminder was directed to be issued to the Chief Secretary, Government of Uttar Pradesh, for submission of his reply to the notice issued U/S 18 (a) (i) of Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. A reminder was also directed to be issued to the DGP, Uttar Pradesh, for submission of his report as per the directions of the Commission issued vide its proceedings dated 23.09.2016 vide which he was directed to verify whether the CBCID inquiry report sent by the complainant to the Commission is signed by the then Divisional Officer of CBCID, Agra Division. The Commission has perused and considered the papers placed on record. In the present case the Commission received a complaint from Dr. Dr. Lenin, General Secretary, Manav Adhikar Jan Nigrani Samiti, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, which reveals that one youth namely Shyamu died in the custody of SOG, Aligarh. The deceased Shyamu alongwith his brother Ramu went to village Rustampur to meet his sister. They were picked up on 15.04.2012 at 11.30 a.m. by the SOG, Aligarh team and taken to Police Station Kwarsi for investigation. Later on, Shyamu was taken towards Tala Nagri for further interrogation when Shyamu gulped a capsule from his possession and his condition deteriorated. He died on the way to hospital. The family members have alleged that Shyamu was tortured by the police. A case was registered against the police personnel responsible for the incident. The complainant has requested for appropriate compensation to the family of the deceased person and action against erring police personnel. The Commission vide its proceedings dated 07.05.2012 had directed the DG (I) to collect the requisite reports from the concerned authorities. The Investigation Division has submitted its report dated 08.09.2016 in which it is stated that the analysis of documents on record reveals as under: (i) On 15.04.2012 at about 11.30 a.m., deceased Shyamu and his brother Ramu (wanted in a criminal case) were picked up by the SOG, Aligarh from the residence of their sister i.e. village Rustampur, District Aligarh. Both were taken to Police Outpost / Police Station where Shyamu died due to alleged police torture. (ii) The version of police that Shyamu was picked up alongwith Ramu as police officials were not able to establish the identity of Ramu because both were twins and were having identical features is not convincing because Ramu and Shyamu had been arrested many times previously and it should have been possible for the police to identify Ramu on the basis of mark of identification mentioned in the dossier of Ramu. (iii) The deceased was arrested earlier also and had seen police action previously; therefore, the reason behind committing suicide by consuming poison is not convincing. (iv) When an accused is arrested / apprehended his personal search is carried out by the police to avoid such incidences. Therefore, even if the police version about the suicide were taken to be true, it would be implied that in this case no such precaution was taken and the police was at fault. (v) On the complaint of Shri Manveer Singh (the brother of the deceased) case Crime No. 364/12 U/S 147/342/302 IPC, Police Station Kwarasi was registered against the police officials of SOG, Aligarh. After investigation of this case, FR was filed in the Court which was rejected by the Hon’ble Court of CJM, Aligarh, and on appeal against the order passed by the Hon’ble Court of CJM, Aligarh, is pending in the Court of Additional District Judge, Aligarh. (vi) On the directions of Hon’ble Commission, CD/ CID (UP) conducted an enquiry into this mater. But, before the receipt of CB/CID enquiry report from the DGP/UP or the Government of Uttar Pradesh, Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi (the complainant to NHRC) has sent the CB/CID enquiry report (signed by the Divisional Officer, CB/CID, Agra Division on 15.05.2014) to the Commission which reveals that enquiry officer concluded that alleged police officials picked up deceased Shyamu and his brother Ramu from house forcibly, took them to Police Post Talangri, tortured them, poured water into the nose of deceased Shyamu and even administered him poisonous substance due to which Shyamu died. The enquiry officer recommended that there was sufficient evidence to prosecute the alleged police officials U/S 147/342/302/328 IPC. It was further stated that the Court has rejected the FR filed by the police in the case Crime No. 364/12 registered against the police officials of SOG, Aligarh and taken cognizance against the alleged police officials. Vide its proceedings dated 23.09.2016 the Commission had observed and directed as under : “Commission perused and considered the report. Let a notice U/S 18 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, to the Government of Uttar Pradesh, through its Chief Secretary, to show cause as to why the Commission should not recommend monetary relief to the next of kin of the deceased Shyamu. The DGP, Uttar Pradesh, is directed to verify whether the CB/CID enquiry report sent by the complainant to the Commission is signed by the then Divisional Officer of CB/CID, Agra Division. A copy of the enquiry report received from the complainant be sent to him”. No reply has been submitted by the State Government as well as the DGP, Uttar Pradesh, despite repeated reminders. It is presumed that they have nothing to say in the matter. In the above circumstances a case of violation of human rights of the deceased is made out. Keeping in view the facts and circumstances of the case, the Commission recommends to the Government of Uttar Pradesh, through its Chief Secretary, to pay compensation of Rs. 1,00,000/- (One Lakh Only) to the next of kin of the deceased Shyamu. The Chief Secretary, Government of Uttar Pradesh, is directed to submit compliance report along with proof of payment within six weeks.”

Ms. Dorte Bech Vizard, Political and Press Counselor, Royal Danish Embassy (Now Ambassador at Singapore) at conference on torture in Delhi

There have been widespread national and international concerns for India’s poor human rights record and impunity.

First, with regard to prosecution for human rights violations including torture, law enforcement personnel continue to enjoy virtual impunity as their prosecution requires prior permission of the government under Section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 and various Special laws.

Second, India continues to maintain a reservation to Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It states that under the Indian legal system there is no enforceable right to compensation for persons claiming to be victims of unlawful arrest or detention against the State. While the courts in India and National Human Rights Institutions have awarded compensation for human rights violations including torture, India is yet to adopt any legislation recognizing the right to compensation for human rights violations. It is clear that Indian juris prudence has annulled this reservation and therefore, there is no reason to maintain the reservation.

The Government of India took a significant step when it signed the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment (UNCAT) in October 1997. The Government of India stated:

The Convention corresponds to the ethos of Indian democracy, rule of law, individual freedom,personal liberty and security enshrined in Indian polity. Signature of the Convention Against Torture by India is an important milestone in the process of India’s continued commitment to fundamental and human rights of all persons and directive principles of national policy. Ratification of the Convention is to follow.”

Despite holding the view that the UNCAT corresponds to the Indian ethos of democracy, the rule of law and individual freedom, India has failed to implement this clear commitment for the last eleven years despite ongoing use of torture, the repeated interventions of the NHRC, civil society organizations and repeated rulings by the Courts. Nonetheless, in 2004-2005, the Government of India established an Inter-Ministerial Group of the Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Law and Justice on the question of early ratification of the CAT. In South Asia, Nepal and Sri Lanka have already ratified the CAT.

On the specific recommendation by the UN Human Rights Council during examination of India’s human rights record under the Universal Periodic Review in April 2008 to expedite ratification of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the government of India stated that “The ratification of the Convention against Torture is being processed by Government of India”.5 While the Inter-Ministerial Group has made no public recommendations the Ministry of External Affairs has drafted the Prevention of Torture Bill, 2008 for the ratification of the UNCAT.

In order to “ratify the said Convention and to provide for more effective implementation”,1 in 2008 the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, has drafted the Prevention of Torture Bill, 2008. The Bill contains three operative paragraphs relating to (1) definition of torture, (2) punishment for torture and (3) limitations for cognizance of offences.