Gujarat HC frames charges against 4 policemen in Kheda public flogging case

The Gujarat High Court on Wednesday framed charges against four policemen for contempt of court for their role in the the public flogging of some members of a minority community arrested in Kheda district in October 2022.

In context of one of the four accused policemen, the HC said there is “a tacit consent or approval” by him in carrying out “the illegal and humiliating act,” and therefore, no immunity can be granted to him from the framing of charges.

A division bench of Justices AS Supehia and MR Mengdey observed that the four policemen — an inspector, a sub-inspector and two constables — “actively participated and carried out the act of flogging the applicants in public by tying them to a pole” at Undhela village in the district on October 4, 2022.

By doing so, they violated the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court in DK Basu vs State of West Bengal case, the HC said.

In doing so, they attracted punishment under section 2(b) read with section 12 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 (related to wilful disobedience to any judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or other process of a court or wilful breach of an undertaking given to a court), it said while framing the charges against them..

The punishment for the same attracts simple imprisonment of up to six months and/or a fine of up to Rs 2,000.

The four accused policemen are inspector AV Parmar, sub-inspector (SI) DB Kumavat, head constable KL Dabhi and constable RR Dabhi.

During the Navratri festival in October last year, a mob comprising members of the Muslim community allegedly hurled stones at a garba dance event at Undhela village in Kheda district, injuring some villagers and police personnel.

Videos emerged on social media showing police personnel purportedly flogging three of the 13 persons arrested for pelting stones.

Some of the accused later approached the HC, claiming the police personnel involved in the act had committed contempt of court by flouting the Supreme Court’s directions.

A total of 13 policemen were accused in the case.

The court said charges were not framed against nine other policemen, who were also made respondents in the case, as they were not found involved, as per a report of the chief judicial magistrate (CJM) of Kheda.

The HC also allowed the lawyer for the respondents to file further affidavits to respond to the charges framed against them.

It kept the matter for next hearing on October 11.

In its order on July 12, the HC said the proceedings were maintainable and issued further directions to the CJM at Kheda to prepare a report based on the role of each of the respondents after verifying the contents of the videos and images placed on record.

In his report dated July 31, the CJM identified respondents numbers 2, 3, 5 and 13 and their presence was was found at the time of the incident. The magistrate did not identify the role of the nine other respondents, and hence no charges were framed against them.

The court also observed that the lawyer for the respondents had argued that the report indicated SI Kumavat did not violate the Supreme Court guidelines.

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As per the report, the accused was seen sitting on a chair and not with sticks or beating any applicants. The lawyer requested that no charges be framed against him, which the court declined saying it does not concur with the submissions.

“The incident of flogging had happened in broad daylight. Presence of respondent number 3 at the time and incident is not at dispute. He has made no efforts to see that applicants who were being brutally flogged in public view by other respondents are rescued. No efforts are made by him to stop the flogging,” the court observed.

“On the contrary, his presence in the chowk with other assailants shows that he has accompanied other respondents and has played an active role in bringing the applicants to the chowk from the police station, and they were tied to the pole and mercilessly beaten,” it said.

Hence, there is “a tacit consent or approval” by him in carrying out “the illegal and humiliating act,” and therefore, no immunity can be granted to him from framing of charges, the HC said.

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