Court directs DRI to revise raid guidelines after detainee dies by suicide

A Delhi metropolitan court, while taking cognisance of various offences against four Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) officers, including abduction and abetment of suicide, has directed the agency to revise the guidelines to be followed by its officers during a raid.

Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Shivani Chauhan was hearing a case where a suspect was allegedly driven to end his life by suicide due to illegal detention, and physical and mental abuse by four DRI officers.

According to the case details, the central agency conducted a raid at the office, shop and residence of victim Gaurav Gupta on April 24, 2018.

The raid continued till the next morning, and after the victim and his father were taken to DRI office, Gupta ended his life by jumping out of a window.

An FIR was initially registered for the offence of murder. After investigation, however, a cancellation report was filed, and the Investigating Officer (IO) concluded that it was a case of suicide.

The court, in an order passed on September 25, said it was “prima facie” a case of suicide but it had to seen whether the victim took his life of his own volition or something happened at the DRI office which drove him to take the extreme step.

It said the victim’s father categorically stated that during the raid at his residence, a DRI officer pointed a revolver at the victim, and four members of the raiding team slapped and misbehaved with them.

At the DRI office, he could hear his son being beaten in the adjoining room, the court noted.

It said the victim and his father were detained without following the due procedure.

“There is nothing on record to show that the raiding party had the authority to detain these two persons without formal arrest and interrogate them at their office at that time. This act in itself is an abuse of the powers vested with the concerned officers of the DRI and the detention itself was illegal,” the court said.

It said it was evident that the victim was verbally and physically abused both during the raid and after being taken to the DRI office.

“The victim was not given a chance to speak with his family members or advocates after the conclusion of the raid. The victim was not given adequate opportunity to rest Rather he was straightaway and illegally taken to the office of DRI, beaten and abused during further interrogation which deteriorated the mental condition of the victim to such an extent that he was driven to commit suicide,” the court said.

It said there was sufficient material on record to take cognisance of offences against the four officers-Parminder, Nishant, Mukesh and Ravinder- under IPC sections 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 341 (wrongful restraint) 166 (public servant disobeying law with intent to cause injury to a person) 352 (punishment for assault or criminal force otherwise than on grave provocation), 362 (abduction), 348 (wrongful confinement to extort confession), 306 (abetment of suicide), 330 (voluntarily causing hurt to extort confession) and 34 (common intention).

“IO is directed to file an information sheet of all the four accused persons Thereafter, summons be issued to the accused,” the court said.

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While there exist several guidelines and procedural safeguards to keep a check on the powers of investigating agencies like police, there are no judicial guidelines or procedural safeguards for agencies like the DRI and customs, the court said.

“In these circumstances and in view of peculiar facts of the present case, the court is under a bounden duty to issue directions to the DRI to revise the guidelines with respect to the procedures to be followed by its officers,” the court said.

It prescribed several guidelines to be followed, including video recording and preserving the proceedings during the raid, allowing suspects an effective opportunity to consult their advocate and not detaining anyone without following the procedure of law.

“There should be audio and video recording of the interrogation of the suspect ,” the court said.

The matter has been listed on October 17 for further proceedings.

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