Only 428 FIRs were filed in 1,022 custodial deaths between 2000-2016, says NCRB data

According to the National Crime Record Bureau, only five per cent of the policemen are ultimately convicted.
Representational image.
Representational image.

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 earlier this week, may not get justice.

According to the National Crime Record Bureau, only five per cent of the policemen are ultimately 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 so that court proceedings could take place.

Not surprisingly, only 24 policemen have been convicted so far. In 50 per cent of the custodial deaths, magisterial enquiries were not conducted.

In many cases, an autopsy was also not conducted. These are the cases where police didn’t get custody from court. The deceased were in detention or had been arrested, but couldn’t be produced in court.

Former Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar told TNIE 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.” 

Asked about the low conviction rate, Kumar said, “There are multiple reasons. The kind of evidence the court wants is not produced, the accused policemen play smart and sometimes judges are also compromised.”

According to data revealed in Parliament recently, 2017 alone saw 74 custodial deaths of people who were not remanded to police custody by the court.

For instance, 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 waiting to get justice since then. The Delhi Police filed a charge sheet on time due to media pressure, but the accused cops are out on bail.

“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 subsequently died. We are still fighting the case,” said Nishi Bhat.

According to Ajai Raj Sharma, a UP-cadre IPS officer who served as the Delhi Police Commissioner, the cops should file cases in all matters and should not hesitate to arrest the accused even if they get transferred for doing so.  

“In all cases, police should immediately file a case and investigate. If they find reasons to arrest the accused, no matter who it is, they should be arrested. Even in the Unnao case, police should have arrested the MLA even if it would have meant a backlash from the political class.” 

According to criminal lawyer Gaurav Bansal, 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 in the matter. Sometimes they don’t go for DNA test, file charge sheet without Forensic Science Laboratory report etc,” Bansal said. 

He feels political intervention and deliberately shoddy investigation are the main reasons for the low conviction rate.

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