HC upholds conviction, 10-year jail term for 5 UP cops in custodial death case

The Delhi High Court Monday upheld the conviction and 10-year sentence of five Uttar Pradesh policemen for custodial torture of a 26-year-old man causing his death in 2006.

It also upheld the three-year jail term awarded to the sixth convict, Inspector Kunwar Pal Singh, for kidnapping the victim.

The high court dismissed the appeals filed by the policemen against their conviction and sentence awarded by a trial court here in March 2019.

It also rejected the appeal of the complainant, the father of the victim, seeking conversion of their conviction under Section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) to Section 302 (murder) of the IPC.

“Considering that there is no evidence on record to prove that the accused police officers caused injuries to Sonu (victim) with an intention that in all likelihood death will ensure, thereby causing the murder of the deceased, it would be difficult to reach a conclusion that the accused police officers would be guilty of offence punishable under Section 302 IPC,” a bench of Justices Mukta Gupta and Anish Dayal said in a 60-page judgment.

The bench said the sequence of events and evidence on record suggest the deceased was subjected to custodial torture with the knowledge that it was likely to cause death of the victim but without any intention to cause the death.

“Therefore, the act of causing bodily injury, as is likely to cause death, would make the accused guilty of offence punishable under Section 304 IPC Part I and liable for a sentence for rigorous imprisonment of 10 years,” it said.

The high court said, “What had happened to the victim after his arrest / abduction by the accused persons was within the special knowledge of the accused persons and having not provided believable explanation, the court was right in drawing the presumption that the police was responsible for his abduction, illegal detention and death”.

The high court also upheld the acquittal of constable Vinod Kumar Pandey, saying there was no evidence about his presence at the site of abduction and at the police station in Sector-20, Noida. It said the trial court was correct in acquitting him for lack of evidence.

The Supreme Court had transferred the trial from Noida to Delhi in 2011 after observing that the manner in which the probe was conducted showed a free and fair trial was not possible in Uttar Pradesh since the accused were from the state police.

According to the prosecution, Sonu was picked up by policemen in civilian clothes on September 1, 2006 and brought to Nithari police outpost in Sector 31 in Noida in a private vehicle.

On September 2, 2006, he was lodged in the lock up of the police station in Sector 20 in Noida at 3:25 AM. Police had claimed he was wanted in connection with an investigation in a robbery case.

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An investigation concluded Sonu committed suicide around 5:30 AM due to physical and mental stress after being falsely implicated in the case.

The high court rejected police’s claim about suicide, holding there were serious discrepancies in the records and that the general diary entries were “fabricated and manipulated”.

Taking note of the injuries on Sonu’s body, the high court said it was hard to believe he attempted suicide and then sustained such injuries in the process of being saved by trained police personnel.

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