Telangana HC Points Out Loopholes in Police Claims on Brutality During Lockdown

The court questioned the contents of the police’s counter-affidavit and asked it to inform the court about any "progress made in the departmental enquiries which have been initiated against the delinquent police personnel".

New Delhi: Hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) regarding police brutality during the lockdown, the Telangana high court pointed out a series of discrepancies in the police’s counter-affidavit, asking the state police “to submit the injury reports of the injured persons, their statements, if any recorded by the police, and further to inform this court with regard to the progress made in the departmental enquiries, which have been initiated against the delinquent police personnel”.

The order was passed on Wednesday by a bench of  Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice B. Vijaysen Reddy.

Aggrieved by the action of the police personnel by assaulting the members of the common people by chasing, charging lathis, abusing and manhandling them amid the COVID-19 lockdown, the petitioner, Hyderabad-based social activist Sheela Sarah Mathews, had filed the case last month, arguing the police action was not only arbitrary but also illegal.

Speaking to The Wire, senior advocate L. Ravichander, counsel for the petitioner said that on Wednesday, the court also asked Hyderabad police officials as to why it had booked a disproportionately high number of Muslims for allegedly violating the lockdown.

“This was an oral observation made by the chief justice during the hearing,” said the senior advocate.

Also read: Amidst a Lockdown, Why Must Cops Wield the Lathi With Such Impunity and Callousness?

According to a report by the Times of India, the court asked, “Does it mean that there are no violators from other?” As per the report, the bench felt that the approach of the police towards minorities was high-handed. “Look at what is happening in the US where an African-American was killed by the cops and the entire country is now burning,” the bench further observed.

Citing the case of Junaid, who was brutally attacked, allegedly by policeman K. Hanumanth Kumar, the court noted in its order that, “Obviously, a single injury to the right eye cannot cause an injury requiring 35 stitches, and a hairline fracture. Thus, it is obvious that the correct facts have not been mentioned in the counter-affidavit.”

Moreover, the court also noted that, “Although it is claimed that Mr. Hanumanth Kumar was suspended by order dated 29.04.2020, and a detailed enquiry has been ordered against him, neither the copy of suspension order, nor the further development in the departmental enquiry has been submitted along with the counter-affidavit.”

In another instance, the court pointed that “according to the petitioner, there is a video circulating over the internet wherein it is shown that a sub-inspector of police of Moghalpura police station was abusing local persons who had stepped out for groceries. Although the said allegation has been admitted in the counter-affidavit, neither the name of the delinquent police personnel has been revealed, nor the final outcome of the departmental enquiry initiated against the delinquent officer has been mentioned, Therefore, the necessary information needs to be submitted before this court.”

Also read: Fair and Unbiased Policing Still a Far Cry in India

The court expressed its surprise over the police’s claims that while checking two wheelers parked outside the houses, “The police had checked the vehicles using police lathis in order to see whether coronavirus was present or not.”

According to the court, “This explanation by the police is, indeed, surprising. For, in order to check the presence of coronavirus, there is no need ‘to use the lathis’.”

Similarly, in another case filed by local activist S.Q. Masood, the court on Wednesday directed the authorities to produce the statements of the victims recorded by the police, wherein allegedly the victims have denied the occurrence of the incident.

“It is, rather, surprising that the police has not further investigated into the source of information with regard to the alleged incident with Mr. Sajjad Ali,” the court noted. As per the counter-affidavit, Sajjad, who was allegedly beaten up by the police personnel at Shastripuram area, has denied the said incident. However, in the counter-affidavit, no statement of Sajjad is furnished in order to support the claim made by the police that he had denied such an incident.

On March 24, The Hindu had reported that journalist Ravi Reddy was assaulted by two sub-inspectors and three constables of Begumpet police station. However, in the affidavit, the police claimed that Reddy has denied the said assault. “The said statement of Mr. Ravi Reddy hasn’t been produced before this court to buttress the claim made in the counter-affidavit,” the court noted in its order.

Also read: Hyderabad: CAA Protesters Allege Ill-Treatment by Police, Journalist Also Detained

In the case of Mohd Haji and Mustafa Hassan, who were allegedly beaten up and abused in vulgar language by a sub-inspector, the court noted that “although an enquiry has been ordered by Mr. S.V.N. Shivaram Sharma, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Santhosh Nagar Division, the victims are yet to be identified by the Police. And the eventual outcome of the enquiry has not been reported to this court.”

Masood’s counsel, Mounis Abidi told The Wire, “The police denied some incidents of police brutalities, claiming them to be a fake news and tried to get away by saying the victims didn’t turned up to lodge a complaint, however the court refused to accept the same asking them to produce the statements of victims holding them accountable.”

According to Abidi, “The concerns of the courts for the victims of police brutalities while as well appreciating the police force for their good work they did in the pandemic, has reaffirmed the faith of the citizens in judiciary.”

Notably, in April too, the court had advised authorities to ensure that the police enquire into the reasons why people are out on the roads.