New Delhi (Press Release): An independent Fact Finding team led by Justice PC Jain (Retd Judge, Jaipur High Court) which investigated in the matter strongly protests against the Inquiry led by Mr. R S Tripathi (Retd District and Sessions Judge) into the matter of custodial torture and death of Akhilesh Sahu, and death of Naqeeb Ahmad Siddiqui in Singrauli during 5thÂ to 13thÂ Dec 2013.
The fact finding team believes that the current inquiry by Mr. R S Tripathi will be infructuous because of the following reasons:
1.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The seat of the Commission is Rewa when the event happened at Singrauli. This is prejudicial to the interests of truth and justice. It will severely restrict people from making verbal and written submission to the Commission. The Commission being seated at Rewa also overlooks the importance of circumstantial evidence at the places of occurrences.
2.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The Commission has no TOR or the TOR is highly inadequate, as the Commission only looks at certain events and does not looks at entire chain of events that led into killing of Akhilesh Shah and Naqeeb Ahmad Siddiqui.Â The Commission being appointed on 15thÂ Dec is not looking into the matter of custodial torture of Sanjay Shah, which is an important link into the chain of events.
3.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The Commission has failed to give the report in three months time after its constitution. It took almost no action till late February 2014.
The independent Fact finding team also believes that inability of the Commission in unearthing the truth will help justify the police atrocity and strengthen the hands of the perpetrators.
The Committee demands that the current commission should be relieved and superceded by a High Powered Committee under a retired Judge of the High Court, which should enquire into the chain of events leading to the deaths of Akhilesh Sahu and Naqeeb Ahmad Siddiqui.
The team organized a Press Conference on the issue on 24thÂ February at Bhopal. It also met with the Chief Secretary and the Secretary, Home to reiterate its demand.
The observation and recommendation of the fact finding team are as follows:
Main observation of the Fact Finding Team
The observations of the fact finding team are based on the representation of the relatives, and representatives of community and independent witnesses, and other available evidences and circumstantial evidence, the fact finding committee observes:
1.Â Â Â Â Â Â The case prima facie looks like one of illegal confinement, custodial torture and death. It is quite possible that the police abducted Akhilesh (though there was no case or FIR against him), took his to an undisclosed place and tortured him, which led to his death. His dead body was thrown into the well on 12thÂ evening, which was discovered by the residents on 13thÂ morning.
2.Â Â Â Â Â Â The fact finding team rejected the police story that Akhilesh died due to drowning in the well. It was observed by the team that postmortem report of the deceased revealed that the death was caused due to puncture of small intestine by some hard and blunt object (which is generally caused when a person is kicked severely and mercilessly in the stomach). The post mortem report also revealed that there was very small amount of liquid in the stomach (100 ml) and the lungs were clear. Had he died due to drowning, the lungs and stomach would have had larger amounts of liquid.
3.Â Â Â Â Â Â There were marks of intravenous injection on the hands of Akhilesh suggesting that he might have been taken to the doctors when his situation went bad.
4.Â Â Â Â Â Â The post mortem report conducted on 14thÂ December gave the duration of death as 2 to 5 days before, however, the police said that the Akhilesh died on 5th, which is in not supported by the postmortem report.
5.Â Â Â Â Â Â It is also highly unlikely that Akhilesh fell into the well on 5thÂ and died as in such a case his body would have been discovered much earlier. The well had also rings on the inner wall and anybody could have come out without much difficulty or else could have shouted for help as there are many houses within hearing distance.
6.Â Â Â Â Â Â There was no FIR or any case registered against Akhilesh, therefore his confinement is completely illegal, custodial torture resulting in death, and efforts to remove evidences etc. point to grave violations of laws of arrest and detention by the SP and other police officers.
7.Â Â Â Â Â Â Sanjay Shahâ€™s brutal torture in the police custody too is completely illegal. He suffered fracture in the leg and the neck, which is not explained by police. Sanjay reported that the SP wanted him to confess that Akhilesh was with him since 5thÂ December, the day on which Akhilesh was picked up by police.
8.Â Â Â Â Â Â The order for police firing was given by Naibtehsildar, who was officiating as Tehsildar. It needs to be noted that Tehsildar is a second class magistrate and does not have power to order firing. Even if he gave the orders on the instruction of the Collector, Collector failed to exercise reasonable care and caution in using the discretion vested in him.
Main recommendations of the fact finding team are as under
1.Â Â Â Â Â Â The case should be investigated by a high powered Committee led by a retired Judge of the High Court.
2.Â Â Â Â Â Â There is an atmosphere of fear in Singrauli, which might prevent people from making verbal and written representation to the Committee, which should be looked into.
3.Â Â Â Â Â Â If the police officers are found guilty, they should be charged for murder.
4.Â Â Â Â Â Â The family of the deceased should be given adequate compensation.
5.Â Â Â Â Â Â The main reasons for petty theft, industrial disputes and lack of peace in the district is lack of employment and livelihood opportunities for people, and also domination of the big companies and lack of respect for labour laws, and police protecting corporate interests rather than human rights. It is recommended that the incident should be looked at in this broader context.
Retd. Judge, Jaipur High Court
Bharat Jan VigyanJathha
Advocate, Jabalpur High Court
Ajay K Jha