Probe into custody death of vegetable vendor not impartial, says SC; asks senior Uttar Pradesh cop to personally investigate

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Stating that the investigation into the case of alleged custodial death of a vegetable vendor in Unnao in Uttar Pradesh “cannot be said to be fair and impartial”, the Supreme Court directed a senior officer in the state police to “personally” investigate the charges.

“After going through the records placed before us, we are prima facie of the view that the manner in which the investigation has been conducted by the investigating officer cannot be said to be fair and impartial and the complaint of the petitioner, in our considered view, deserves indulgence of this Court”, said a bench of Justices Ajay Rastogi and Bela M Trivedi.

 

It added, “We have an option either to send the matter to CBI for further re-investigation, but after we have heard counsel for the parties, consider it appropriate at this stage that let a senior Police Officer, Shri Bhagwan Swarup, Inspector General of Police, Intelligence, HQ, Lucknow shall personally undertake further investigation of the complaint made by the petitioner…” on which an FIR had been registered “in a fair and impartial manner”.

The court also ordered that a report be furnished to the court within eight weeks. The case involves the death of Mohd Faizal, a vegetable vendor, who was allegedly picked up for violating the curfew norms in May last year.

His mother alleged that he “was brutally murdered in police custody on 21st May, 2021 at Police Station Bangermau, District Unnao, Uttar Pradesh, by the local police officials”.

She said that though she had expressed the fear that the investigation which was carried out by the Circle Officer attached to the Bangermau police station in Unnao district will not be fair and transparent, the administration did not pay heed to her request. After recording the statements of the police personnel and hardly any statement of the independent witness, a chargesheet was filed against a constable and one home guard under Section 304 of the Indian Penal Code (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), she contended.

The woman then approached the High Court praying that the probe be handed over to the CBI or some other independent agency. “The Division Bench of the High Court remain completely oblivious of her complaint and taking note of the fact that since charge-sheet has been filed under Section 304 IPC, it was for the prosecution to invoke Section 319 of the Code to summon additional accused for trial, if considered necessary and disposed of the petition by its order dated 21st September, 2021. Later, the learned Sessions Judge, Unnao framed charge under Section 302/34 IPC on 2nd December, 2021”.

 


Deciding the appeal against the High Court order, the Supreme Court said “fair investigation is the backbone of criminal justice system and the object of the investigation is to search for the truth so that it would help in meeting the ends of justice by way of fair trail in Court. At the same time, the need to ensure fair investigation of crime is undoubtedly imperative because it protects at one level the rights of the victim and the fundamental rights of every citizen in ensuring that crime is investigated and dealt with in accordance with law”.

The apex court, which went through the statements recorded by the investigating officer during the investigation of various police officers under Section 161 CrPC, said “No one has supported the case of the prosecution but still chargesheet was filed under Section 304 IPC and the learned Sessions Judge has framed charges later under Section 302/34 IPC (murder).”



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