NEW DELHI: If the conviction rate of policemen accused of custodial death is anything to go by, then the family of the Unnao rape victim, whose father Surendra Kumar died in police custody this week, may not get justice.According to the National Crime Record Bureau, only five per cent of the policemen are convicted. Between 2000 and 2016, there were 1,022 deaths in police custody. But FIRs were filed in 428 cases only, the NCRB data shows. Out of this, only in 234 cases did the police file charge sheets. Not surprisingly, only 24 policemen have been convicted so far.
In 50 per cent of the custodial deaths, magisterial inquiries were not conducted. In many cases, autopsy was also not conducted. These are cases where police didn’t get custody. The deceased were in detention or had been arrested, but couldn’t be produced in court. Former Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar told The Sunday Standard that mostly people die a natural death and sometimes the judges are also compromised.
“Whenever there is a custodial death, the popular perception is that the person died due to the treatment meted out by the police. In reality, people die due to many reasons like heart attack, or an injury received before arrest,” Kumar said. Asked about low conviction rate, he said, “The kind of evidence the court wants is not produced, accused cops play smart and sometimes judges are compromised.”
The family of Manoj Kumar who was allegedly picked up by six Delhi policemen from Uttam Nagar on 26 May, 2014 and turned up dead a few hours later, is still waiting to get justice. “It is just the beginning of a long-drawn battle for the family of the Unnao rape victim. They have to fight with the system, the police on a daily basis. In our case, the cops picked up my brother-in-law without any allegation and instead of taking Manoj to Bindapur police station, the six accused took him to Old Matiyala police station where he was beaten up badly and died. We are still fighting the case. Recently the accused got bail,” said Nishi Bhat.
Ajai Raj Sharma, former Delhi Police Commissioner, said, “If they find reasons to arrest the accused, they should arrest. Even in the Unnao case, police should have arrested the MLA even if it would have meant a backlash from the political class and a transfer for the arresting officer.” Criminal lawyer Gaurav Bansal, who fights custodial death cases, says cops play dirty games to protect their men and don’t add evidence.
“Courts say that in custodial deaths, investigation should be done by a SIT, but they are also policemen. They will have a soft corner for the accused. In many cases, the investigating officer deliberately leaves out evidence which can be decisive. Sometimes they don’t go for DNA test, file charge sheet without Forensic report etc,” Bansal said.