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Wrongful confinement, falsification of evidence are standard police procedures
JAVED IQBAL  9th Oct 2011

Law of the gun: Maley Mandavi and her village of Hiroli wait outside Kirandul police station for the police to release the body of her 19-year-old son, who was killed in an alleged fake encounter on 12 April 2009. Photograph: JAVED IQBAL

"The machinery of criminal law is often used here as a handy weapon to wreak vengeance on the enemy."
Justice Virender Bhatt, Delhi Sessions Court

Whistleblower and intelligence officer Sanjiv Bhatt was arrested for Section 341 (wrongful restraint), Section 342 (wrongful confinement), Section 189 (injury to public servant) and Section 193 and 195 (falsification of evidence) on 30 September 2011. There aren't many people who think his arrest isn't politically motivated, but if these charges were to be applied to the police machinery across the country, then a whole lot of them would/should be arrested, as "wrongful confinement" and "falsification of evidence" is almost standard operating procedure.

Jairam Khora, a sarpanch of Badapadar, Malkangiri was picked up by the Orissa police and handed over to the Chhattisgarh police on 14 September. He was detained without being charged, tortured and kept in custody for eight days and then released after he was forced to sign a statement saying he accompanied contractor B.K. Lala to pay off the Maoists on behalf of Essar Steel.

Recently, recorded conversations have appeared where a policeman, Mankar, is talking to adivasi teacher and alleged Maoist, Soni Sodi, who is also accused in the Essar-Maoist nexus case, claiming all the charges against her and her nephew Lingaram Kodopi (who was once locked up in the police toilet for 40 days) are fabricated.

The police claims he was there on his free will, while the now-released Jairam Khora joins countless adivasis in Central India, to whom being "abducted" and "detained" by policemen is an event that takes place in frightening regularity. This is true especially for the thousands of people living in the interior forests of Bastar, who have given up on travelling to local markets, or travelling through police checkposts, over risks of being interrogated, beaten or arrested simply by association.

Recently, recorded conversations have appeared where a policeman, Mankar, is talking to adivasi teacher and alleged Maoist, Soni Sodi, who is also accused in the Essar-Maoist nexus case, claiming all the charges against her and her nephew Lingaram Kodopi (who was once locked up in the police toilet for 40 days) are fabricated. Soni Sodi was arrested in Delhi on 4 October and she fears for her life, when the same Mankar of Kirandul police station is on record telling her that "she should allow herself to be arrested and that she would be released after three months".

Now in the case of Jairam Khora and the Soni Sodi, can Section 341 (wrongful restraint), Section 342 (wrongful confinement) and Section 195 (falsification of evidence) be used on the police?

Usually, no one ever files a complaint against the police for fear of further harassment. And no one held by the police is ever released from a police station without signing a blank sheet of paper.

Meanwhile in Orissa, on 11 May 2010, 17 Kondh adivasis from the village of Samna in Narayanpatna block, were apprehended by Greyhounds, then blindfolded, handcuffed and put on a helicopter and taken to Salur police station in Vizianagaram, Andhra Pradesh. There, they were interrogated, beaten and threatened not to support either the adivasi Kondh land movement, which is fighting land alienation, the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh or the Maoists who were beginning to build a base in the area as soon as state repression fell hard on the adivasi movement. They were let off on 14 May, after three days in custody.

Land movements, specifically, suffer from mountains of false cases that remain a handy method of coercion and suppression available in the supermarket of state violence. On 26 September this year, a group of workers alleged to be goons, had attacked anti-Posco protestors while the police watched quietly. When Satyabati Swain, mother of Ranjan Swain, one of the leaders of the anti-Posco movement, who was hurt in the attack, had gone to the police station to lodge a complaint about the assault, she was jailed for a case of "wrongful assembly" from 2008.

As of May 2011, there were a total of 178 cases on the people protesting against Posco. Seven more were added in the last five months, including a charge of murder against the leader of the movement, Abhay Sahu, who had already spent time in prison.

A CASE IS PUNISHMENT ITSELF

In Maharashtra, a few days ago, Arun Ferrera, alleged Maoist and a resident of Bandra was acquitted of all charges by the High Court. The police had also accused him of a crime which took place when he was already in prison. He was acquitted of that too. Yet instead of being released, Arun Ferrera was taken out of prison by plainclothes cops, put into a car without a number plate and driven off to face more charges. He is charged in a crime where his name was never mentioned in the First Information Report.

Ironically, one of Arun Ferrera's thesis' from Nagpur Central Jail was titled, "Where Arrests Follow Acquittals", where he studied the cases of countless others in Nagpur Central Prison, especially adivasis from Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra, which borders the Maoist-stronghold Abujhmarh.

Arun Ferrera's case is very similar to the case of Padma, wife of Balakrishna, resident of Ramnagar, Hyderabad. Like Ferrera, she was acquitted of all charges on 10 August 2009 by the Bilaspur High Court, Chhattisgarh. But instead of being released from Raipur's Central Jail, she disappeared.

A few days later she was booked under Sections 147, 148, 307 of the IPC, and Sections 25 and 27 of the Arms Act, and remanded to judicial custody. Padma, wife of Balakrishna, was now identified as Padma, wife of Rajana, a resident of Bhopalpatnam, Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh who was actually shot dead in an encounter on 15 October 2006, in the Ballampalli forest.

The Chhattisgarh police was arresting ghosts.

And yet Padma remains in jail because it is a known fact that she is the wife of Maoist Balakrishna, aka Bhasker Rao, a member of the Andhra-Orissa Border Committee. The harassment of family members of known Maoists has been standard operating procedure in counter-insurgencies.

The slow agonizing process of the judiciary becomes punishment itself. Arun Ferrera had also alleged that the police had tortured him, but the High Court found no evidence of it, and yet the wait for freedom, which is swiftly postponed as another case is slapped on the recently acquitted, is also torture.

Hope becomes the weapon of the state.

THE CASE AGAINST POLICE FICTION

On 5 February 2011, the Delhi Sessions Court acquitted seven Kashmiris of being terrorists. It ruled that an encounter on the night of 2 July 2005 was a fake encounter and all charges against the Kashmiris were fiction. The court indicted the policemen to be charged under Section 166, Section 193 and Section 195. Excerpts from the order by Judge Virender Bhatt are worth noting:

"All these four police officers have acted in advancement of their self interests in total disregard to the demands of their solemn duty. These four police officers whose duty was to protect and safeguard the citizens, have turned persecutors and tormentors.

Violent clashes ensued between the activists of an anti-Posco outfit and the workers of a private construction firm over the laying of a road to the proposed Posco steel project area, at Abhya Chandrapur, Orissa on 26 September. The police watched quietly

"The aim of the investigating agency is to collect evidence and not to create it. Its aim should be to discover the truth. It is not only unethical but also illegal for an investigating agency to resort to concoction, paddling, fabrication of evidence – all serious offences under the law – even to bring a known criminal to justice.

"Its relevance in India is much felt as there are no defence investigators as there are in various Western countries. Hence the machinery of criminal law is often used here as a handy weapon to wreak vengeance on the enemy.'

"In India, a section of some overzealous, overambitious and scrupulous police officers is seen, who seem to think that if a person is really harmful to the society, there is no problem in creating some evidence or supplying the missing link in the evidence to secure his conviction. If fabrication of false evidence were to be justified because of a laudable motive, the worst criminal on earth would justify the worst crime on the ground of good motive.

"I, therefore, direct the Commissioner of Police, Delhi, to initiate appropriate enquiry against the four police officers SI Ravinder Tyagi, SI Nirakar, SI Charan Singh and SI Mahender Singh (who by now may have been promoted to the post Inspector) for the misuse and abuse of their powers as a police officer, as detailed hereinabove.

"A copy of this judgment be sent to the concerned Magistrate dealing with the cases of police station Kapasahera with directions to treat the same as a complaint against SI Ravinder Tyagi, SI Nirakar, SI Charan Singh and SI Mahender Singh of Delhi Police for offences punishable U/s.166, 193 and 195 IPC and to proceed with the same as per law."

This case as of now, whose order is a rarity in itself, is under appeal.

POLICE TERROR

  •  Jairam Khora, a sarpanch of Badapadar, Malkangiri was picked up by the Orissa police and handed over to the Chhattisgarh police on 14 September. He was detained without being charged, tortured and kept in custody for eight days and then released after he was forced to sign a statement saying he accompanied contractor B.K. Lala to pay off the Maoists on behalf of Essar Steel.
  • On 11 May 2010, 17 Kondh adivasis from the village of Samna in Narayanpatna block, were apprehended by Greyhounds, then blindfolded, handcuffed and put on a helicopter and taken to Salur police station in Vizianagaram, Andhra Pradesh. There, they were interrogated, beaten and threatened not to support either the adivasi Kondh land movement or the Maoists. They were let off on 14 May, after three days in custody.
  • In Maharashtra, Arun Ferrera, alleged Maoist and a resident of Bandra was acquitted of all charges by the High Court. The police had accused him of a crime which took place when he was already in prison. He was acquitted of that too. Yet instead of being released, Arun Ferrera was taken out of prison by plainclothes cops, put into a car without a number plate and driven off to face more charges. He is charged in a crime where his name was never mentioned in the First Information Report.
 
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