A press release by relatives of victims and by human rights activists (Tuesday 29 September 2009)
A press conference was addressed in Delhi by the relatives of 5 men who were illegally picked up and tortured, and by Human Right Activists Shabnam Hashmi, Harsh Mander and Supreme Court lawyer Vrinda Grover. Before meeting the press the delegation met the NHRC and NCM before lunch.
Following is the text of PRESS RELEASE by Anhad
In a pattern which has become increasingly familiar in many parts of India, but particularly in Gujarat, once again in the run-up to the assembly by elections in Gujarat, a number of Muslim youth were picked up by police officials in plain clothes, illegally detained and severely tortured, before they were sent to judicial custody. The youth who were picked up by the police were:
1. Zahir Abbas Amiruddin Shaikh resident of Hathikhana Patel Faliya , Opp. Bismilla Mutton Shop, Fatima complex,
2. Usmangani Alias Nawab abdulGaffar Ansari, residing at Kalriwad, B/s. H. M. Batliwala, Fatepura, Baroda.
3. Amin Razzak Sha, residing atB/208, Richmond tower, B/h. Convent School, Fatehgunj, Baroda
4. Iqbal alias Ikku Majidbhai Shaikh, Age – 39 years, residing at 109, Rashida Apptt., Hathikhana Patel Faliya, Baroda.
5. Mustak Ismail Shaikh, 34 years, residing at Gujarat Mention building , Hathikhana Patel Faliya
They were illegally picked up by plain clothes policemen:
Zahir illegally picked up on Sep 1, 2009 shown arrested on Sep 6, 2009
Mushtak illegally picked up on Sep 1, 2009, shown arrested on Sep 6, 2009
Usmangani illegally picked up on Sep 3, 2009, shown arrested on Sep 6, 2009
Iqbal illegally picked up on Sep 2, 2009, shown arrested on Sep 6, 2009
Amin illegally picked up on Sep 2, 2009, shown arrested on Sep 6, 2009
All of them produced in the court on September 7, 2009.
They were formally presented to the magistrate after a gap of 5 or more days, during which they allege that they were blind-folded and taken into a farm-house at Sivasi Gotri Road, in Village Sindhrot and brutally tortured. The police charged them for planning to bomb the Ganesh Vijarjan Yatra and for possessing Sutli bombs and rocket launcher. Police claimed to have recovered these items from a closed hand cart . Police Commissioner called for a Press Conference on September 7, 2009 and all local newspapers flashed the news in bold headlines.
A team comprising Shabnam Hashmi, Harsh Mander Rahul Rashtrapal met family members of many of the affected youth on September 25, 2009 and Gagan Sethi and Shabnam Hashmi met with the family members on September 26, 2009. They all testified to versions of the same story: that youth invariably with no criminal records, were picked up by people wearing plain clothes, sometimes using force, sometimes taking them under false pretences. They were taken blind-folded to a farm, and subjected to torture. Family members were not informed about their whereabouts. Family members searched for them in various police stations and hospitals. After Mohdbhai Vora, the local counselor took a delegation to the DCP Rakesh Asthana, he was informed that the youth were safe and in their custody, even then he did not divulge where they were kept or why they were picked up. The same late evening some parents were asked to meet their sons at the police station. They saw them from a distance and were not allowed to talk to them. It was visible from their appearance that they were badly tortured, some of them could not even walk on their own. Police secured varying terms of police remand, followed by judicial custody. The youth were threatened with dire consequences if they told the judge about the torture. The families were threatened not to contact any one otherwise more cases will be put on their sons.
It is relevant to point out here that the alleged terrorist attack on the Ganesh Visarjan processions never actually took place, and we have only the police version, that such attacks were planned, to rely upon. The fact, that the statements of the accused were obtained under duress and torture, the whole police case and the motives behind these become even murkier.
A team constituting Rahul Rashtrapal, Dushyantbhai, Sachin Pandya and Shabnam Hashmi went to the Baroda Central Jail and met two of these youth Zaheer and Iqbal on September 25, 2009. Both youth testified to grave torture. Zaheer and Iqbal were blindfolded and taken to a farm house about 10-15 kilometers away from Baroda. They were brutally beaten up along with three others who were also arrested. All of them were kept and tortured in different rooms. The police beat them all over the body with lathis, two men stood on Iqbal’s thighs, legs stretched wide and beat him up brutally, Iqbal was given electric shocks on his waste down-words, abused using the filthiest language possible. Zaheer was stripped naked and given electric shocks all over his body many times a day. They caught him by his hair and banged his head against the walls repeatedly. Abusing him, they called him a Taliban and a terrorist, and degraded his community and mother and sisters. Zaheer’s hands were tied to the roof and he was not allowed to sleep for days.
Both Zaheer and Iqbal were not allowed to break their rozas till 11pm. The youth alleged that the police kept on forcing them to admit that they were going to bomb the Ganesh Visarjan procession and kill people. Zaheer pleaded with the police to spare him as he was innocent and he had no idea about the allegations. The policemen taunted him and said if you are tired of torture we will shoot you dead and made him run across a field all the time aiming at him to shoot him down.
The team also looked at the newspaper coverage. Divya Bhaskar’s headline read accused picked up in possession of the rocket launcher had foreign connections. Sandesh newspapers wrote: ‘When the accused used to come out of the mosque after praying he used to get into frenzy to destroy the Ganpati’
Rakesh Asthana, the Police Commissioner, Rakesh Sharma the ACP, J. D. Ramgadia. PI Crime Branch, D.R. Dhamal, PI of Baroda city, Halsika PSI SOG were all involved in this illegal picking up, detention and torture of youth.
We have also heard that the Farm House where the youth were taken and tortured belongs to a close associate of the Police Commissioner Rakesh Asthana.
We urge the NHRC, NCM and the Govt of India therefore that these grave allegations are independently investigated and the guilty police officers severely punished.
We hope suo moto action will be taken against the Police Commissioner Rakesh Asthana for flouting the Supreme Court DK Basu guidelines and for using the premises of a private farm house for illegal detention and torture. Not following these guidelines constitutes a contempt of the Supreme Court, which is a serious offence, punishable by Imprisonment and fine
In view of the increasing incidence of violence and torture in custody, the Supreme Court of India has laid down 11 specific requirements and procedures that the police and other agencies have to follow for the arrest, detention and interrogation of any person. These are:
* Police arresting and interrogating suspects should wear “accurate, visible and clear” identification and name tags, and details of interrogating police officers should be recorded in a register.
* A memo of arrest must be prepared at the time of arrest. This should:
o have the time and date of arrest.
o be attested by at least one witness who may either be a family member of the person arrested or a respectable person of the locality where the arrest was made.
o be counter-signed by the person arrested.
* The person arrested, detained or being interrogated has a right to have a relative, friend or well-wisher informed as soon as practicable, of the arrest and the place of detention or custody. If the person to be informed has signed the arrest memo as a witness this is not required.
* Where the friend or relative of the person arrested lives outside the district, the time and place of arrest and venue of custody must be notified by police within 8 to 12 hours after arrest. This should be done by a telegram through the District Legal Aid Authority and the concerned police station.
* The person arrested should be told of the right to have someone informed of the arrest, as soon as the arrest or detention is made.
* An entry must be made in the diary at the place of detention about the arrest, the name of the person informed and the name and particulars of the police officers in whose custody the person arrested is.
* The person being arrested can request a physical examination at the time of arrest. Minor and major injuries if any should be recorded. The "Inspection Memo" should be signed by the person arrested as well as the arresting police officer. A copy of this memo must be given to the person arrested.
* The person arrested must have a medical examination by a qualified doctor every 48 hours during detention. This should be done by a doctor who is on the panel, which must be constituted by the Director of Health Services of every State.
* Copies of all documents including the arrest memo have to be sent to the Area Magistrate (laqa Magistrate) for his record.
* The person arrested has a right to meet a lawyer during the interrogation, although not for the whole time.
* There should be a police control room in every District and State headquarters where information regarding the arrest and the place of custody of the person arrested must be sent by the arresting officer. This must be done within 12 hours of the arrest. The control room should prominently display the information on a notice board.
These requirements were issued to the Director General of Police and the Home Secretary of every State. They were obliged to circulate the requirements to every police station under their charge. Every police station in the country had to display these guidelines prominently. The judgment also encouraged that the requirements be broadcast through radio and television and pamphlets in local languages be distributed to spread awareness.
Failure to comply with these requirements would make the concerned official liable for departmental action. Not following these directions constitutes a contempt of the Supreme Court, which is a serious offence, punishable by Imprisonment and fine. This contempt of court petition can be filed in any High Court.
These requirements are in addition to other rights and rules, such as:
* The right to be informed at the time of arrest of the offence for which the person is being arrested.
* The right to be presented before a magistrate within 24 hours of the arrest.
* The right not to be ill-treated or tortured during arrest or in custody.
* Confessions made in police custody cannot be used as evidence against the accused.
* A boy under 15 years of age and women cannot be called to the police station only for questioning.
The Constitution of India, which is the basic law of the country, provides protection to all persons from ill treatment and torture by the police and other state agencies.
Guarantees the right to life and personal liberty to all persons.
Lays down the rights available at the time of arrest and detention. These rights can be enforced by directly approaching the High Courts and the Supreme Court of India.
ANHAD, 23, Canning Lane, New Delhi 110001