It is alleged that Mr.
Mohammad Yasin, the Thrissur Police Range Inspector General at the
time of Sampath's death is one of the persons responsible for
brutally torturing Sampath that resulted in his immediate death.
Yasin is the 16th accused in the CBI case. These senior police
officers are not even suspended from active service.
The state police had
arrested Sampath in connection with Crime 246/2010 from
Gounderpalayam at Coimbatore in Tamilnadu state on 28 March 2010.
The police brought Sampath to Kerala after the arrest.
Sampath was accused of theft and the
murder of a woman named Sheela, the wife of a prominent
businessperson in Kerala and seriously injuring her mother,
Karthiyayini. It is alleged that the police officers brutally
tortured Sampath and the other co-accused in the case at a remote
riverside cottage in a place called Malampuzha of Palakkad district,
It is suspected that
Sampath died due to the injuries he suffered from brutal torture
that the police inflicted upon him, allegedly to extract a
confession. The post-mortem examination revealed that Sampath had
suffered 63 anti-mortem injuries and that death was due to internal
bleeding and blunt trauma brain injuries. The police till today have
failed to explain how Sampath suffered these injuries.
Logically it is beyond
doubt that the police had a role to play in Sampath's death. To what
extent, which officer is involved in the murder and for what reason
is for an independent agency to investigate and a court to
adjudicate. It is reported that deceased Sheela and her husband had
close connections with the then state home minister in Kerala, Mr.
Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, who had reportedly misused his authority to
force the police complete the investigation of the case
in haste. It is also alleged that Sheela's husband is also well
connected to high-ranking police officers.
Sampath's death the state police worked overtime to protect officers
allegedly involved in the custodial death. The manipulated records
at Palakkad North Police Station where a case under section 174 of
the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 registered as Crime 251/2010 is
the result of this. Sampath's younger brother filed a writ petition
in the High Court in which the court transferred the case to the CBI
for investigation. In more than two occasions courts have questioned
why the CBI is unable to arrest the police officers suspected for
the murder. It is at this juncture the investigating officer,
accusing his colleagues and other officers of illegally interfering
with investigation, has chosen to end his life. The accusations by
the officer against his own colleagues are serious and must be
The so-called 'ultimate
criminal investigation agency' in the country, the CBI, itself is
not immune to political and otherwise corrupt pressure is not a new
concern. There are a series of instances where the CBI has been
accused of manipulating investigation to fit illegal demands of
power centres, including those from political parties. The CBI also
houses officers received on transfer from the state police, a factor
that cuts the root of independency of this agency.
That apart, the primary
question concerning the entire affair is, what is criminal
investigation in India? That a suspect tortured by the investigating
agency is nothing new. Extraction of confession by use of force is
often considered a legitimate investigative procedure in the
country. In most cases investigation of a crime begins and ends with
a confession. Sampath's case indicates the two prevalent trends in
India that in cases involving powerful persons, the police could be
easily influenced by local power structures, which puts into action
senior police officers that willingly investigate cases to please
these power pockets. And, even for them, scientific investigation of
crimes is not an option so that they resort to custodial torture.
Bringing a suspect to a
remote place for questioning is a practice that the police follow
routinely. Such illegal detention houses where suspects are brought,
tortured and taken back exists throughout the country. For instance
in Kerala, one such place exists in Thiruvananthapuram district -
also the state capital - at a place called Neyyatinkara. This was
video documented by the media and there was no response from the
Such places exist in
other parts of the state, which could be either a rented house in a
remote location or a government guesthouse away from the public
attention. That such illegal interrogation houses exist in every
part of the country is a documented and shocking reality. Despite
the fact that in Kerala, a similar incident - destruction of
evidence and subsequent exposure - had brought down the then state
administration as early as in 1977, the practice still continues,
highlights the reality that criminal investigation is synonymous to
torture in India.
Even as of today the
country does not have a policy of zero tolerance to custodial
torture. Police officers complain that they do not know what
criminal investigation is other than extracting confession by force.
So much so, the practice of torture is accepted as legitimate police
procedure. The appalling nature of criminal trials that lack proper
evidence and quality prosecution have led to justifying torture as
the only punishment a suspect would get in the entire process.
The judiciary largely
condones torture and the general public believes that the police are
legally entitled to torture suspects. There has never been an
attempt by the government to educate the police and the public that
torture is not only illegal, but is in fact a crime against
humanity, that has the viral potential to undermine the very concept
of justice and thus a democratic state.
Judicial officers are
required by law to enquire from the accused produced before them
whether the person is subjected to torture. However they openly
refuse to comply this requirement and consider asking a detainee
such a question unnecessary. This often ends up in denying a victim
the first chance to complain about police torture to a judge.
Training provided to the subordinate judiciary does not include
The higher judiciary does
not consider such systemic procedural lacunae as an important issue
to be addressed. In fact a substantial number of judges in the
higher judiciary, including those at the Supreme Court, do not have
an understanding of how serious torture is and why the peremptory
norm of ius cogens applies to torture. The appalling nature of
criminal trials that lack proper evidence and quality prosecution
has led to justifying torture as the only punishment a suspect would
get in the entire process.
regarding criminal investigation negate the very notion of criminal
justice in the country. That majority police officers resort to
torture demoralises those upright officers who would not want to
break the law. When torture is condoned, and police records
subjected to manipulations, the very concept of fair trial is
The negation of fair
trial guarantees is not an exception, but a character of the Indian
criminal justice system. In such an environment it is farcical to
argue that the criminal justice apparatus in the country requires
'correction'. The fact is that there is nothing called justice in
the entire process. To bring change into this, what is required is a
complete overhaul of the system.
That a police officer has committed
suicide due to this fallen system is a tragedy. That the country has
lost an officer whom the people have invested resources is a waster
and shame. The an officer did not have means to ventilate his
concerns and seek support shows not only how anarchic are conditions
within the law enforcement agencies in the country, but also
illuminates the alarming fact that the apparatus of criminal
investigation is not geared to investigate crime and help unearth
the truth but is better equipped to cover it up. What is shocking is
the banality of it.
[Asian Human Rights Commission, AHRC
in short, is a Hong Kong based non-governmental organisation
established since 1984. AHRC
monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and
advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the
protection and promotion of these rights.
Nervazhi is a human rights organisation operating in Kerala]