Fact Finding Report On Illegal Detention And Custodial Torture Of Juvenile
By Koraput Youth Association
17 June, 2015
“Unfortunately, the police in our country are not trained in scientific investigation (as is the police in Western countries) nor are they provided the technical equipments for scientific investigation, hence to obtain a conviction they often rely on the easy short cut of procuring a confession under torture.”
- SC judgment in criminal appeal no. 889 of 2007
The above is part of a Supreme Court judgment delivered in a criminal appeal filed against a judgment of a Designated TADA Court in Guwahati, Assam in 2007. And as predicted by the SC judge who delivered this order, torture seems to have become handmaiden of the police who seem to use it unrelentingly. In Odisha and especially in districts like Koraput which have a long history of left-wing extremism, the police seem to be using torture as its only tool of investigation irrespective of the charges against and age of the accused. The recent uproar against the police torture of a juvenile boy in Laxmipur police station of Koraput district seems to corroborate the statement made by the SC judge in the above order.
Shaken by the media reports of illegal detention and custodial torture of a 13-year old Dalit boy Sankar @ Rahul Garada, members of the Koraput Youth Association (KYA) decided to intervene into the matter and make all efforts to give justice to the juvenile victim. A first step in this direction was conducting a fact finding and for this five youth members of KYA visited the victim and his family to get to the core of illegal detention and custodial torture incident. The KYA team met Sankar Garada and his mother Laxmi (about 30 years) at Kusumguda village of Kakrigumma Panchayat under Laxmipur Block in Koraput district on 25th May 2015. Sankar has been staying with his maternal grandparents’ which is in Harijansahi of Kusumguda ever since he was brutally assaulted in police custody. Before the incident he used to live with his paternal grandparents in Kandhasahi of Laxmipur town and studying in 7th standard in Odiapentha Government school. His mother has been living in Tikri since the last three years where she works as a labourer and his father is mentally imbalanced though he stays with his parents in Harijansahi. His grandparents work as daily labourers and are able to meet their family expenses with great difficulty.
Following is a detail account of custodial torture of Sankar Garada and the events that followed the assault and also documents his present condition which were got through discussions with Sankar, his family members, senior police officials and the doctors who treated him at different hospitals.
Arrest and Custodial Torture
On 11th March 2 015 at about 8 am, a team of about 4-5 police personnel led by Inspector in Charge (IIC) of Laxmipur Police Station came to Sankar’s grandparents’ home in Kandhasahi of Laxmipur town and took him to the police station along with three other boys, Nagesh Miniaka (15 years) and two other juvenile boys who are also from Laxmipur town. All four boys were brought to the police station for interrogation of a theft case where they were supposedly the prime suspects. The theft reportedly was of 25 tola gold and Rs 6000 cash from a local businessman Daitari Bisoi. Sankar told that all four of them were kept at the police station for a week from 11th to 17th March 2015. All the while Sankar was brutally beaten and assaulted as a result of which he suffered severe fractures on both his legs, cigarette butt burns on the back of his palms and arms and needle point bruises on his right arm. He kept pleading innocence and told the police that he had his 7th standard exams the next day and even his grandparents pleaded with the police to spare him. But neither was he allowed to sit for his exams nor were his grandparents allowed to meet Sankar the whole time their grandson was in police custody. The police not only beat him brutally but also verbally abused him using derogatory words and slangs forcing him to undergo mental and physical torture. While Sankar was in police custody, his mother Laxmi, maternal aunt Bhawani Kandpan and maternal grandmother Mukta Kandpan. visited Laxmipur police station everyday to plead with the Inspector in Charge (IIC) Kailash Chandra Sethi to release him but all their pleas fell on deaf ear. Finally after about two days they came to meet the District Collector and Superintendent of Police (SP) at Koraput and it was only after that that Sankar was released from custody.
Haphazard Medical Treatment
Sankar’s custodial torture took on severity due to the haphazard medical treatment and apathetic attitude of the medical officials. Once he was released on 17th March 2015, Sankar’s family was in despair since he could not walk and his burns and bruises were getting infected with pus. Looking at his severe condition and afraid that his illegal detention and custodial torture would blow up into a major issue, the Laxmipur IIC sent mother and son to Gudari in Rayagada district for ayurvedic treatment where he was treated for two days. But when his condition did not improve, they returned to Laxmipur and went to the Community Health Centre (CHC) there where Sankar was further referred to Koraput District Hospital. Laxmi then brought him to Koraput District Hospital where Sankar’s fractured bones were set and cast in plaster on 21st March 2014 by Dr K R Mohapatra and he was discharged the next day on 22nd March 2015. He stayed at home for about a month. On 16th April 2015 Sankar’s plaster cast was removed at Laxmipur CHC and the Medical Officer (MO) there gave a discharge sheet where he had written Sankar had recovered completely and was fit. But Sankar told the KYA team that even after removal of the plaster cast there was no improvement and he still could not walk without support. But by then the district level media had published his case of illegal detention and custodial torture in Laxmipur police station and a Bhubaneswar based human rights lawyer Biswapriya Kanungo had filed a complaint with the Odisha State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) vide case no. 1018 of 2015. The Commission has taken up the matter and hearings have already begun.
On 24th May 2015 members of KYA team came to know of Sankar’s illegal detention and custodial torture and decided to intervene. They conducted a fact finding on 25th May 2015 met Sankar’s family and on 28th May the team also met the SP, DSP and Collector and submitted a memorandum seeking action against the erring police officials and immediate medical treatment for Sankar. After meeting Sankar and his family as well as the police officials, the KYA members also met Assistant District Medical Officer (ADMO). On 26th May 2015 SHRC passed an interim order that looking into the condition of Sankar’s injury, he should be immediately treated at Koraput District Hospital and if required then also shifted to MKCG at Berhampur for further treatment. The SHRC also ordered that all assistance should be provided by Koraput SP and Collector and expenses for medical treatment should be borne by Odisha State Treatment Fund. Following KYA’s memorandum and also pushed by SHRC order, the SP asked the Laxmipur police team to bring Sankar to Koraput District Hospital. However, afraid of further torture by the police, Laxmi and Sankar came to Koraput District Hospital by bus on 31st May 2015 and he was treated for his injuries. The doctors at Koraput District Hospital discharged him on 2nd June 2015.
However, on seeing that Sankar was unable to walk and was in severe pain, KYA members requested the doctor in charge to admit him in hospital and allow him to be kept under hospital treatment till his full recovery. But the doctor refused so Sankar and Laxmi went back to Kusumguda, their maternal village. He was advised regular physiotherapy at Laxmipur Community Health Centre (CHC) but Laxmi could not afford the expense of taking Sankar in an auto to Laxmipur everyday from Kusumguda since they could not travel by bus due to Sankar’s physical condition.
What Police Officials Stated
After meeting Sankar and his family, the KYA members also went and met the SP and Deputy SP. As per the SP, he had ordered an enquiry into illegal detention and custodial torture of Sankar. And based on the enquiry report he had prepared his report to the higher police officials confirming torture in police custody but also stated that the boy was accused of theft in three cases. But he said that he had no information of Sankar’s continued injuries since Laxmipur CHC had given the police a discharge sheet confirming Sakar’s complete recovery. The SP also said that he had written to District Hospital’s Chief District Medical Officer for ensuring that Sankar got free medical treatment. However, the SP assured the KYA team that he would order a re-enquiry into the incident based on the memorandum submitted by KYA.
The DSP also confirmed that an internal enquiry had been held and that there seems to have been torture in custody and a departmental action would perhaps be initiated against erring police officials but it remains to be seen what final action is taken. In the meantime, the KYA members were also told that Odisha State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) had asked the SP for filing a report on Sankar’s custodial torture case following a complaint filed with SHRC by Bhubaneswar based human rights lawyer Biswapriya Kanungo. They were also told that the SP had submitted his report to SHRC confirming custodial torture.
According to the police they had taken Sankar for interrogation as he was suspected to be involved in three cases of theft the details of which are as follows :
1. Laxmipur PS Case No. – 35/14 on 30.07.2014; 2. Laxmipur PS Case No. – 25/14 on 22.05.2014
3. Laxmipur PS Case No. – 54/14 on 15.11.2014
Sankar’s Present Condition
Sankar’s mother stated that the Laxmipur police station IIC Kailash Chandra Sethi had called Sankar and Laxmi and tried to force them to give a written statement that Sankar had fallen from a tree and broken his leg and that there was no torture in police custody. She also told the KYA members that she was offered Rs 50,000 cash by the local police officials for saying that Sankar had broken his legs by falling from a tree but she refused. And even today different persons keep visiting them at Kusumguda and pressurizing the mother and son to state that Sankar had broken his legs after falling from a tree and that there was no illegal detention or torture in police custody at Laxmipur police station. As for Sankar’s bone injuries and health condition, he is still not able to walk and his feet always remain swollen. While his burns and bruises have now healed he is severe pain all the time and is unable to sleep at night. He needs further treatment but Laxmi shared that she has no money for the medical expenses.
What KYA Members Demand
· Immediate registration of FIR against Lamxipur PS IIC Kailash Chandra Sethi and initiation of disciplinary action against the erring police officials and suspension with immediate effect
· Provide further medical assistance to Sankar till his complete recovery
· Prove compensation of Rs 5/10 lakhs to Sankar Garada and his family
· Support Sankar Garada and his family with rice and other commodities for their survival
· As per the statement of Sankar and his family members police is harassing them on a regular basis and forcing them to change their statements therefore there is need to provide immediate protection to Sankar and his family members
Rajesh Yadav,(President, KYA)
Jenesis Khora (Gen Secy, KYA)
Manoj Meher (Member, KYA)
Baikunth Biswal (Member, KYA)
Khalil Khan (Member, KYA)
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