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Satpal Vs. Assistant Commissioner of Police - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
CourtDelhi High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCriminal Miscellaneous (Main) Appeal Nos. 683 of 1982 and 4 of 1983
Reported in1984(1)Crimes683; 25(1984)DLT219
ActsPunjab Police Rules (applicable to Delhi) - Rules 16 and 38; Delhi Police Act, 1978 - Sections 138; Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) , 1973 - Sections 5
RespondentAssistant Commissioner of Police
Advocates: N.R. Krishanan,; P.K. Sinha and; G.S. Sharma, Advs
criminal - atrocities in police custody - rules 16 and 38 of punjab police rules (applicable to delhi) and section 138 of delhi police act, 1978 - allegation of atrocities committed against petitioners in custody - magisterial enquiry proves guilt of some accused - evidence may not withstand scrutiny in criminal trial - commissioner of police directed to initiate departmental proceedings. - - ii and iv were present sad subseineotly. sections 138 and 140 of the delhi police act, 1978 provide for a limited protection to the police officers in respect of liability for acts done in good faith in pursuance of or purported pursuance of any duty and from suits and prosecutions in certain cases. section 140 provides that prosecution in such cases shall not be entertained more than three..........allegations. all the police officers whose conduct is called in question were posted in the same police station. (2) these two petitions by two undertrials, satpal (cr. m(m) 683/82), and shri krishan (cr. m(m) 4/83) were received by this court from jail and contained allegations that the petitioners were subjected to illegal force while in police custody by certain officers of police station farash bazar, shahdara, delhi. while satpal was wanted in connection with an offence u/s 302 of the indian penal code, the other petitioner, shri krishan, was wanted in connection with an offence u/s 307 of the indian penal code. (3) in the petition of satpal, the respondents are naresh kumar, assistant commissioner of police, station house officer, sub-inspector hoshiar singh, and sub-inspector.....

H.L. Anand, J.

(1) This order would dispose of Cr. M(M) 683/82 and Cr. M(M) 4/83, as both the petitions raise certain common questions of law and some of the respondents are also common and so are the nature of the allegations. All the police officers whose conduct is called in question were posted in the same police station.

(2) These two petitions by two undertrials, Satpal (Cr. M(M) 683/82), and Shri Krishan (Cr. M(M) 4/83) were received by this Court from jail and contained allegations that the petitioners were subjected to illegal force while in police custody by certain officers of Police Station Farash Bazar, Shahdara, Delhi. While Satpal was wanted in connection with an offence u/s 302 of the Indian Penal Code, the other petitioner, Shri Krishan, was wanted in connection with an offence u/s 307 of the Indian Penal Code.

(3) In the petition of Satpal, the respondents are Naresh Kumar, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Station House Officer, Sub-Inspector Hoshiar Singh, and Sub-Inspector Bani Singh, all of Police Station Farash Bazar, Shahdara. Paragraphs 2 to 4 of the petition are in these terms :

' 2.That on 25-11-1982 when the petitioner was produced in Court from Judicial custody, the Respondent No. Iii asked for and obtained a Police Reto and of the petitioner for two days from the Magistrate, Shahdara, the same Magistrate also allowed the application of the petitioner that he be got medically examined before proceeding on Police Remand ; this medical examination was got done at the Police Hospital .on the payment of Rs. 16.00 as fees, and the Doctor examining the petitioner found no injuries on his person.

3.That thereafter, the petitioner was taken to Police Station Farash Bazaar where the Respondent No. Ii and Iv were present sad subseineotly. Respondent No. I also also arrived. Upon his arrival Respondent No. Iii and Iv Along with several constables of the Police Station started brutally beating the petitioner with lathis which they continued for about one hour ; then after a respite of about 3 hours the petitioner was again subjected to a similar beating ; on the next day again the respondents subjected the petitioner to a beating ; the petitioner has lost count as to the number of treating sessions that took place on the next day all that he remembers is that he was going from one peak of agony to the next and each scream of his seemed to drive his sadistic torturers to an even greater frenzy. On 27-11-82 the day that the petitioner was produced before the Magistrate he was not beaten.

4.That on 27-11-82 the petitioner was remanded back to Judicial Custody and he was medically examined on the morning of 29-11-82 wherein the prison doctor found the following injuries on the petitioner, as are mentioned at Seriall No. 2794 of the admission register maintained at the prison : (I)Extensive Bruises over the back (ii) Contusion over left and right things. (iii) Contusion over both upper arms.'

(4) In the petition of Shri Krishan, the respondents are the Delhi Administration, Naresh Kumar, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Jai Singh, Station House Officer and Sub-Inspector Bani Singh of Police Station Farash B^zar, Shahdara. Paras 2 to 5 of this petition are io the following terms :

'2.That on 17th November, 1982 at about 10.30 a.m. the petitioner who was wanted in the case under Section 307 I Pc was coming from Ghaziabad, U.P. in order to produce himself before the Magistrate in the said case when at the border at Seemapuri the petitioner was stopped by a police picket and was questioned about the purpose of his visit to Delhi ; when the petitioner gave the actual reason as above, he was taken to the office of Shri Naresh Kumar, A.C.P. Respondent No. Ii at Vivek Vihar, Shahdara where the said Respondent summoned the Respondent No. Ii and IV. When the latter two Respondents explained that the petitioner was wanted in a case under Section 307 I Pc lodged at their Police Station at Farash Bazaar, the A.C.P. started shouting that the petitioner wanted to cheat them of Police remand So he would be taught a lesson. The A.C.P. then summoned more police personnel who were armed with Lathis and on instruction from the AC.P. they started belabouring the petitioner in a most vicious and brutal manner untill the petitioner lost consciousness.

3.That thereafter the petitioner was taken to Police Station Farash Bazaar, Shahdara by the Respondents Ii, Iii and Iv where all the personnel of the said Police Station indulged in a sadistic orgy by mercilessly beating the petitioner. For five days, till 2.'-l 1-82, the merciless beating of the petitioner continued, day and night; the petitioner would be .beaten till he lost consciousness, then again when he recovered the beating would start. When the Respondents realized that the petitioner had become a physical wreck and that further beating would in all likelihood kill him, on 22-11-82 they called a barber and had him shave off the petitioners head and eyebrows. Then they took the petitioner to court from where he was remanded to Judicial Custody.

4.That on 23-11-82 when the petitioner was examined by the doctor in the pris.oa, the following injuries, as recorded in the prisoner admission renter maintained in the prison, were found on him

(I)Bruise over rt. upper arm with swelling. (ii) Extensive bruise over the back. (iii) Swelling over both feet. (iv) Abrasion over rt leg. (v) Multiple abrasion over It. thigh and bottom. (vi) Incised would over base of It. thumb. (vii) C.L.W. over front left leg in the middle. (viii) Swelling over both writs (illegible) 5.That it is submitted that on 28/29-10-82 the brother of the petitioner was also taken into custody by the same staff of Police Station Farash Bazaar in order to question him regarding the whereabouts of the petitioner and he was also subjected to gruesome beating by the Police Officers of the said Police Station resulting in the fracture of both the bones of the left forearm of his brother Hari Mohan amongst numerous other injuries.'

(5) By these petitions, the petitioners prayed that suitable action may be taken against the concerned Police officers. Certain other reliefs were also sought. The two petitions deal with different incidents, but involve the same police station and more or less common police officers. The two petitions also appear to have been drafted by the same person and are based an a common model. By two separate orders of February 8, 1983, this Court, (M.L. Jain J.) expressed the view that the matter should be enquired further. The learned Judge accordingly directed Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Delhi to make Inquiry into each of the matters and report. The learned Judge further directed that if the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate needed legal assistance, he may summon Mr. Sinha, Advocate, in the case of Satpal, and Miss Ramakrishnan, Advocate, in the case of the other.

(6) Pursuant to the aforesaid orders. Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Delhi, held separate inquiries in the two Matters in the course of which a bumper of witnesses were examined and counsel for the petitioners, as indeed, counsel for the Administration and the officers concerned were heard. The Chief Metropolitan Magistrate submitted separate reports of the Inquiries on April 28, 1983. On receipt of the report, notice of the proceedings was issued to the petitioners, the Administration and the Police officers concerned.

(7) I have heard learned Counsel for the petitioners, the Administration and the concerned Police officers, and have also perused the material on record and the reports of the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate.

(8) In his report in the matter of Satpal.the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate expressed the view that Hoshiar Singh, Sub-Inspector was responsible for the injuries caused to the petitioner during police custody. In the report relating to the other petitioner, the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate expressed the view that Sub-Inspector Bani Singh was responsible for injuries on the petitioner. In both the cases, the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate gave the benefit of doubt to Naresh Kumar, Assistant Commissioner of Police and held that he was not responsible for beating the petitioners. Station House Officer, Jai Singh, was exonerated in both the cases.

(9) The allegations forming subject-matter of the two petitions were of the commission of offences by Police officers in the purported exercise of their duty as such Police officers. If an information of this type had been received by the Superintendent of Police, in the terms of Rule 16.38 of the Punjab Police Rules, which are still applicable to Delhi, immediate information of it had to be given to the District Magistrate and the District Magistrate would have' to decide whether the investigation of the complaint shall be conducted by a Police officer or made over to a selected Magistrate. The Rule further provides that when investigation of such a complaint establishes a prima facie case 'a judicial prosecution shall normally follow; the matter shall be disposed of departmentally only if the District Magistrate so orders for reasons to be recorded.' Sub-rule 2 of this Rule further provides that 'an officer found guilty on a charge of the nature referred to in this rule shall ordinarily be dismissed.'

(10) Rule 16.38, however, has no application where information of the commission of such an offence has been received by any Court. The Rule is, however, based on a salutary principle that a complaint of the commission of an offence against the Police Officer should not be dealt with by the Police Administration itself and should be left to be dealt with by the District Magistrate, and where investigation discloses a prima facie case a judicial prosecution should normally follow unless the District Magistrate, for reasons to be recorded, decides, that the officers concerned may by dealt with departmentally. It was, thereforee consistent with this Rule that Jain, J. referred the matter for inquiry to the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, The Chief Metropolitan Magistrate has found a prima facie case against two officers, has exonerated the third, but has given the benefit of doubt to the fourth.

(11) Ordinarily, thereforee, consistent with the principle on which the aforesaid Rule is based, though not necessarily bound by it, this Court would direct a prosecution being launched against the delinquent officers. It, however, appears to me that, for a variety of reasons, it would be expedient that the conduct of the officers concerned, as indeed, the larger implications of the two incidents, are suitably dealt with in departmental proceedings, at an appropriate level. In the first instance, the allegations made by the two petitioners, even though of a serious nature, and supported by the factum of injuries, their own statements and certain inferences from circumstances, may- perhaps not be able to stand judicial scrutiny in a criminal trial, having regard- to the standard of proof required id such a trial, as distinguished from the standard of proof required in departmental proceedings. It is neither proper nor necessary for this Court to rule on the possible outcome of a trial at this stage but what I have said above appears to be the prima facie position on the existing material. The nature of the allegations are such that whatever was done in the darkness of secrecy. There was, thereforee, naturally no direct or independent evidence of the offences alleged. Such an allegation could, there fore,inthe peculiar circumstances of this case, be more appropriately dealt with in department proceedings. In the second instance, the trial would be subject to a number of uncertainties. Sections 138 and 140 of the Delhi Police Act, 1978 provide for a limited protection to the Police officers in respect of liability for acts done in good faith in pursuance of or purported pursuance of any duty and from suits and prosecutions in certain cases. Section 140 provides that prosecution in such cases shall not be entertained more than three months after the act complained of, and if instituted with the previous sanction of the Administrator, within one year from the date of the occurrence. Section 140 makes no provision for extension of time. Section 468 of the Code of Criminal Procedure also provides for limitation for institution of proceedings although Section 473 of the Code of Criminal Procedure represents a departure from the Delhi Police Act in that it provides for extension of the period of limitation in certain cases. There is an apparent conflict between the provisions of Section 140 of the Delhi Police Act and Sections 468 and 473 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Section 5 of the Code, however, saves the operation of any 'special' or 'local law'. While the protection of Section 138 of the Delhi Police Act may perhaps be available to the delinquent police officers even in departmental proceedings, if their act comes within the terms of the Section, the bar provided in Section 140 and the limitation provided in that Section, as indeed, in the Code may create some difficulty for the institution of prosecution. The incident in the case of Satpal is of November 25, 1982, while in the other case is of November 21, 1982. Three months have obviously already expired since the dates of the occurrence and there are only few days left for one year to expire from the dates of the incident. The processing of this order, as indeed, the sanction of the Administrator is bound to take some further time. Any prosecution, thereforee, would get bogged down in these controversies. Thirdly, any trial of the delinquent officers would, by and large, be confined to the limited canvas as to whether an offence had been committed and if so by whom. The incidents of this type certainly raise some larger questions of grave public importance. If the two delinquent officers inflicted injuries on the petitioners, even though they admittedly had no animus against them, what is it that could have provided the motivation Could such an act of excess of Police power have been committed without exhortation from or tacit consent of or indifference of or lack of proper supervision by the higher officers concerned If not, how far are such officers responsible and how should such officers be dealt with so as to prevent recurrence of such incidents in the future? What is the nature of protection enjoyed by the inferior or subordinate police officers if they are required to resort to third degree methods under the orders of their superiors, or with the conviction that such actions would be condoned if not lauded Some of these larger questions would perhaps be outside the scope of a trial and could be more appropriately dealt with in departmental proceedings. Lastly, the procedure of a .judicial trial is primarily for the benefit of the accused persons because they are assured of a full dress trial which ensures them a fair opportunity of defending themselves and conviction follows only if the offence is proved beyond any shadow of doubt. The delinquent officer is entitled to the benefit of doubt. Both the delinquent officers have, however, expressed, through their counsel, a preference for departmental proceedings, apparently because they apprehend that a criminal trial, with all the other advantages that it may have for them in securing a possible exoneration, may prove to be a long-drawn affair which would naturally be prejudicial to their other interests.

(12) Charges of Police atrocities in general and on the undertrials in the course of detection of crime and in interrogation of suspects in particular are by no means either new or even recent. Such allegations, whether well-founded or ill-motivated, have continued to be made with fair frequency and Commissions and Courts, as indeed, politicians and Administrators have condemned such acts from time to time. Such occurrences or at least repetitive reports of allegations in relation to them, have somehow survived all the condemnation from almost every quarter. It is neither possible nor proper for this Court to rule on the question in general or in the context of the present cases, except to express the hope that time has perhaps come when the Police Administration, at the highest level, should consider what steps, if any, are necessary to streamline the police administration so as to prevent any occurrence of police excess in the detection of crime. This Court is not unaware of the handicaps under which the police administration functions. Elsewhere , the world, science and technology have been pressed into service in aid of prevention and detection of crime. But the police in this country would appear to still wield the proverbial stick to beat the truth out of a recalcitrant suspect. The quest for truth is a very sublime end in any sphere of activity or investigation, from the realm of spirituality to the investigation of an offence. It is axiomatic that ends do not justify means. If an end is sublime and legitimate so must be the means and the handicaps or the limitations of the law and of the difficulties of the police administration would not justify a go-by to this requirement. It is unfortunately true that the Police administration is under very heavy strain on account of understaffing, lack of training, the educational and social strata which provides the recruiting ground, lack of scientific and technological equipment and the insufficiency of ordinary means of mobility and communication in the rather difficult and arduous task that they are called upon to perform. The unsatisfactory conditions of service and of work aggravate the problem. This assumes an entirely new dimension in the face of the unfortunate fact that while the Police methods Still belong to the cart age,crime has because of its wide patronage, marshalled in its aid not only the ingenious human mind but also sophisticated instruments and methods. The result has been that, by and large, crime has an edge over those that are charged with the duty of its prevention and detection. Moreover, power anywhere tends to be misused or excessively used for one motive or the other, not excluding a number of constraints and compulsions which may apparently provide for them a mitigation, if not a complete justification. An unfortunate feature of the misuse and excessive use of power is that it is the man or the officer at the lower or the subordinate levels who is ordinarily caught and conveniently made a scape-goat with the result that any complicity or negligence at the higher level remains not only unpunished but even uncovered. If a Police officer at a junior or a subordinate level is guilty of excessive use of power or abuse or misuse of power in purported pursuance of duty his act may or may not be condoned merely because it was done at the instance of a superior or higher officer or for the benefit of a superior or higher officer. 'But it would certainly be unfair to such a junior or subordinate official if he was made a scape-goat, while those at whose behest it was committed or who connived at it go scot free.

(13) Having regard to all the circumstances, I would direct that the Commissioner of Police would initiate appropriate proceedings at his own level or at such lower but senior level as having regard to all the circumstances, he considers to be necessary to deal with the allegations made against the delinquent officers, who have been indicted in the two reports and who may otherwise appear to him to be concerned and to consider what steps are necessary to deal generally with the problem of misuse, abuse or excessive use of power by the Police officers and take such action as may be considered necessary by him.

(14) Copies of this order be furnished to the Commissioner of Police, the two delinquent officers, the other officers concerned with the matters and copies of it be forwarded to the petitioners, now in judicial custody.

(15) I must express this Court's deep appreciation of the assistance rendered by various counsel both in the proceedings in this Court and in the proceedings of the Inquiry before the learned Magistrate.

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