Ambasamudram custodial torture case: 'Victims in Balveer case left station with swollen face’

The state government's interim report exposes horrific details of police misconduct, non-compliance with SOPs, and instructions on arrests in the Ambasamudram custodial torture case.
A victim showing the gap formed after his teeth were plucked out.
A victim showing the gap formed after his teeth were plucked out. (File Photo | EPS)

TIRUNELVELI: Days after IPS officer Balveer Singh, the primary accused in the Ambasamudram custodial torture case in 2023, was reinstated by the state government, high-level inquiry officer P Amudha’s interim report, accessed by TNIE, proves that the victims had indeed left the station with swollen faces and their teeth plucked out.

It is based on the analysis of CCTV footage collected from Kallidaikurichi police station, where the alleged custodial torture occurred, as well as from Ambasamudram and Vikramasingapuram stations.

According to the report of Amudha, who is now the home secretary, the CCTV footage was already provided to the Cheranmahadevi sub-collector and the inquiry officer by the SP of Tirunelveli.

Recorded on eight CCTV cameras, the footage revealed the following:

Balveer Singh, the then ASP of Ambasamudram division, reached the police station at 9.48 am on March 23, 2023, in his official vehicle along with gunman Sadam and driver Andrews; victims Lakshmi Sankar, Subash, and Venkatesh were brought to Kallidaikurichi police station around 9.50 am by Thivansha Sheikh Farid, Padmanabhan, and Muhammed Bazeer in a private car; the ASP is heard asking the victims to undress.

According to the report, "Singh then asked them, gang irukka? new gang irukka? (Do you have a gang? Is it a new gang?); Bazeer is seen explaining to Singh the charges against the victims; Singh directs the three to take their clothes off (‘Ye pa remove pannu. Shirt remove pannu. Or I will remove them’); Sudalai, a police personnel, directed them to remove their innerwear (paniyan) as well."

The report added, “Balveer Singh, Saddam, Sudalai, and another personnel, Abraham, were seen going upstairs along with the three victims. Driver Andrews then gestures, plucking out teeth, to Bazeer, who is seen going upstairs. Padmanabhan is seen calling every personnel and showing them some dance moves with a broad smile. At 10.08 am, Singh exited the station. A constable at the reception is seen gesturing and plucking out teeth at a man standing next to him wearing a dhothi. He was also heard saying, 'Pallu pudungetaaru ya' (he removed the teeth). Saddam is seen placing a lathi in the boot of Singh’s vehicle. Singh is seen checking his shirt and trousers for a while, as if checking for any stains. He then leaves the station. SB-CID police Rajkumar, Thivansha Bazeer, and Sudalai are seen discussing the removal of teeth inside the writer’s room."
A victim showing the gap formed after his teeth were plucked out.
Ambasamudram custodial torture: A sordid tale of lost teeth and police brutality

The report added that the three victims were brought downstairs by Sheikh Barid at 3.41 pm. "Police Inspector Rajakumari interacts with the victims, who show her their teeth injuries. She asks them if they had taken painkillers. The victims were then brought out of the police station. Anti-Land-Grabbing Cell DSP Barnabas arrives at the station. Rajkumar discusses the events at the station with the DSP."

"Sub-Inspector Abraham is seen discussing the content of the FIR. Rajkumar is seen explaining to the DSP details about the Vikramasingapuram police station incident and showing through gestures how teeth were removed and stone pushed into victims’ mouths,” the report continued.

With the CCTV analysis, Amudha raised questions, including non-compliance with SOPs and instructions on the arrest, filing of an FIR, and the treatment meted out to the suspects at the police station.

“When the accused individuals were brought to the police station at 9.45 am, why did the general diary record it as 11 am? Why was a private vehicle used to bring them? Where did Thivansha pick them from and at what time? Why was it not recorded? As per crime 70/23, the victims suffered grievous injuries. Why were they brought to the station instead of being taken to the hospital directly? Why were they taken to the first floor, where there is no CCTV camera? The FIR was lodged on non-bailable offences. Why was the accused not produced before the court? Why were they not remanded? Who granted them bail? When and under what provisions of the law?" were a slew of questions that Amudha listed in her report.

She further questioned the lack of records on Balveer Singh’s visits to the police station.

“It is obvious from the CCTV footage that senior officers were talking to Singh over the phone. Saddam informs Singh that the DIG wants him to come to his office immediately. Also, the SP is talking to Inspector Rajakumari around 3 pm. This shows senior officers were aware of this incident. Then why was no action initiated?” Amudha stated this in her report, which was shared with Rajeshwari, the mother of one of the victims, following a recent HC order.

A victim showing the gap formed after his teeth were plucked out.
GH doc failed to treat our injuries: Dalit victim tortured by Balveer Singh

Demanding the dismissal of Singh and those involved in the incident, she told TNIE that the report is proof of what actually happened to the victims.

Amudha had discussed the case with Collector K P Karthikeyan and Cheranmahadevi Sub-Collector Mohamed Shabbir Alam and added the findings to the report. All three found prima facie evidence against Singh and his team in several custodial torture cases, the report said.

Inquiry officer P Amudha has also recommended authorities take action against the medical officer of Ambasamudram government hospital, Dr Jaishankar, who gave a ‘nil injury’ report to the six custodial torture victims brought by the Ambasamudram police, reveals the interim report.

However, the doctor managed to escape action as the recommendation was not forwarded to the joint director (health) in Tirunelveli.

Amudha has recommended action against Dr Jaishankar for not recording the injuries of the victims who were attacked in the Ambasamudram police station.

“In crime number 49/23, when the persons were taken to the government hospital, Jaishankar had not recorded the injuries in the medical memo proforma and stated ‘nil injury’ to all six persons brought by Ambasamudram police. He has not maintained a casualty register. Whereas injuries like blood clots in the thighs and back, swollen face, lips, etc. have been clearly mentioned in the Palayamkottai Prison Health Screening Memo, as submitted by the prison authorities before Cheranmahadevi sub-collector,” read Amudha’s report.

“This clearly shows negligence on the part of Dr Jaishankar in recording the injuries and issuing fitness certificates to all six persons. Appropriate action may be taken against the medical officer for serious negligence of duty," the report continued.

"The victims have suffered grievous injuries having lifetime health implications due to the physical torture, loss of teeth, and psychological trauma. They need to be provided immediate, high-quality tertiary care in a reputed government/private dental care hospital and psychological counselling,” the report added.

When contacted, Joint Director (Health) K Latha told TNIE she had not received any instructions from the state government to take action against Jaishankar.

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