Death in Custody Part 2: In UP’s Jaunpur, Family Fights the System for Justice
From omission of injuries from post-mortem report to delay in lodging FIR, efforts were made to save the culprits.
According to NHRC data, 1,888 people have died in police custody in India over the last 20 years, while only 26 accused policemen have been convicted so far.
The Supreme Court and the NHRC also agree that it is very difficult for the victims' families to get justice in cases of death in police custody.
To understand why this is so, you must look at the death of Krishna Yadav in police custody in Uttar Pradesh's Jaunpur and the family's subsequent fight for justice.
A little away from Jaunpur district headquarters, there is a small village –Chak Mirzapur – under Baksha police station area. Krishna Yadav alias Pujari, a 24-year-old youth who lived here, died in police custody on 11 February 2021. The family alleges that the police brutally beat up Krishna, tortured him to an extent that he lost his life.
The matter of Pujari's death has gone up to the Allahabad High Court, and a CBI investigation is on, but the observations made by the court on the probe conducted by the UP Police, and the central agency are enough to show how difficult it is to get justice in the cases of custodial death.
According to family members, on the afternoon of 11 February, the Baksha Police detained Krishna Yadav in a case of alleged robbery of Rs 1.5 lakh. They claim that the police went to his house, beat up the family members, and also looted Rs 60,000 from them.
If that was not enough, the police demanded Rs 1.5 lakh from the relatives to release Krishna. Pujari's brother, Ajay Yadav, did everything under his reach to save him, made several calls to the superintendent of police (SP), and the police station, but to no avail.
In the early morning hours of 12 February, the family received news that Krishna had died.
Omission of Victim's Injuries From the Post-mortem Report
Krishna's brother Ajay told The Quint that when he saw Pujari's dead body, there were bruises from head to toe, blood was oozing out of his spine and the palms were swollen. But these things were hidden in the postmortem report and the cause of death was given as 'shock & syncope'. The police were pressurising the family to quickly conduct the last rites and dissuaded them to not file an FIR. But after a protest by the family, the police buckled under pressure and registered a case.
On the other hand, the then SP Raj Karan Nayyar gave a statement that Krishna, who was in the lockup, complained of stomach pain, and was admitted to a hospital where he died. The police wrote in their general diary that on 11 February, Krishna had suffered injuries after he was beaten up by some people following an accident with his bike.
However, after the FIR in the custodial death case, when the SIT investigation started, along with the magisterial inquiry, the victim's family was pressurised for reconciliation. The family alleges that the pressure was being created by the SIT itself, tasked with probing Krishna's death. Ajay Yadav alleges that he received all kinds of threats and was asked to settle for Rs 1.5 crore. Among other perks, he was also offered a licensed gun, a vehicle, and land if he was willing to settle.
"The policemen used to threaten that whatever has happened to my brother, the same will happen to me. 'So take the money, your brother is gone, now he will not come back'. We had to take the help of many people to go to court. Even in the court, the pressure of reconciliation was also made through other lawyers''.Ajay Yadav, Brother of the deceased
Family Alleges that Accused Were Given Clean Chit in Magisterial Inquiry
During the entire episode, Ajay alleged, the family did not receive any support from the local administration, including the district police chief (SP) and the district magistrate (DM).
From registering the FIR, to complaints of threats and demanding a high-level inquiry into the matter, the victim's family had to write countless letters, including to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, the National Commission for Backward Classes, and the National Human Rights Commission.
The family claims that not only the postmortem report was botched, but the accused were given a clean chit in the magisterial inquiry, in violation of the NHRC guidelines. Exhausted, the victim's family moved the high court which rejected the police investigation outright, and raised serious questions on the magisterial inquiry. The high court said that the entire effort of the police was to give clean chit to the accused by any means.
The high court summoned the SP on 6 September 2021. The SP sought 48 hours from the court for the arrest of the accused, and a non-bailable warrant was issued, but the accused policemen were never arrested.
High Court Pulls Up CBI For Conducting an 'Eyewash' Inquiry
Eventually, the court ordered a CBI inquiry on 8 September. However, seeing that no concrete action was being taken even after the CBI investigation began, the court expressed dissatisfaction and strongly reprimanded the central agency and termed their investigation process as an eyewash.
Advocate Gajendra Singh Yadav, who is fighting Krishna Yadav's case in the high court, said,
"Even after the order of the CBI inquiry, till 29 November 2021, the high court found that no arrests have been made in this case nor the investigation is going in the right direction."Advocate Gajendra Singh Yadav
"We don't understand why arrests are not being made. If a common man commits a crime, he gets immediately arrested or gets shot. I wish that the whole truth comes out and we get justice so that Krishna's soul rests in peace. They have done injustice to the poor, they should definitely get the punishment."Ajay Yadav, Brother of the deceased
It has been 11 months since 10 policemen, including the SOG in charge, and Baksha SHO, were booked for murder. The state government says that the accused policemen are absconding, while local sources claim that all the accused policemen were present in Jaunpur before the start of the CBI investigation. Now the question is, when the country's premier investigating agency like CBI also gives a chance to the accused to abscond, from whom will the common man expect a fair investigation, and justice?
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