Saturday, December 9, 2023

Haryana Police tortured labour activist Shiv Kumar, put him in illegal confinement: Panchkula court says in report before Punjab and Haryana High Court

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A local court in Panchkula has apprised the Punjab and Haryana High Court that Labour activist Shiv Kumar was kept in illegal confinement and badly tortured by Haryana Police in January last year, after being ‘lifted’ from a protest site in Kundli.

District and Sessions Judge of Panchkula Deepak Gupta, who is also the Inquiry Officer, submitted a report before the Punjab and Haryana High Court, stating that the allegations of illegal confinement and custodial torture of Shiv Kumar were ‘duly proved on record’.

The Single-Judge bench of Justice Jagmohan Bansal adjourned hearing in the matter to January 27, after the Counsel representing the Haryana government sought time to address arguments on the report.

The High Court noted on December 14 that the Inquiry report, submitted by the District and Sessions Judge of Panchkula on July 1 this year, has been taken on record. The Single-Judge Bench directed the Registry to tag the report at an appropriate place and adjourned the hearing.

The report alleged that Kumar was actually ‘lifted’ by the police on January 16 last year and kept in illegal confinement till January 23, 2021, the day when he was shown to have been formally arrested at about 8:40 pm.

It said during the illegal police confinement between January 16 to 23, and then during the police remand between the period starting from the intervening night of January 23 and 24 till February 2, granted by the Magistrate, Kumar was badly tortured, causing numerous injuries on various parts of his body, including fractures.

The Inquiry Officer said that although prior to his medical examination on February 20, 2021 at Government Medical College and Hospital, Sector 32, Chandigarh, Kumar was examined as many as five times between January 24 and February 2, but none of the doctors of the Government Hospital, Sonepat or the doctor deputed in jail performed their duty and they apparently danced to the tune of the police officials.

He further said that even Judicial Magistrate of First Class (JMIC) Vinay Kakran appeared to not have performed his duty as was required. 

As per the report, either Kumar was not physically produced before the Magistrate and was made to sit outside in the police vehicle; or if produced, he was not in a position to speak anything to the Magistrate due to the threats given by the police.

It noted that if the Magistrate had seen Kumar in person, he could have noticed the injuries on his body.

As per the inquiry report, SI Shasmher Singh, who was Additional SHO of Kundli Police Station then, was directly ‘responsible’ for the torture, along with other cops associated with him. 

Inspector Ravi, who was the SHO, also cannot escape from responsibility by making a denial, it added.

Gupta further mentioned the name of Inspector Ravinder, In-Charge CIA Sonepat, where Kumar was allegedly kept in illegal confinement. In his statement, Ravinder denied that Kumar was brought to the premises of CIA staff.

Kumar’s father Rajbir had last year filed a petition before the court seeking transfer of three FIRs registered at Kundli police station to an independent agency and probe into the illegal detention and torture of his son by the police. He was represented by Senior Advocate R.S. Cheema and Advocate Arshdeep Cheema.

In March, 2021, the court directed Gupta, who was then District and Sessions Judge Faridabad, to hold an inquiry with regard to the allegations. A total of 15 witnesses were examined during the inquiry.

The Court observed that Part-III of the Constitution dealt with Fundamental Rights. Article 21 guaranteed protection to life and personal liberty. 

It said in a democratic set up, there could not be even a thought for compromising the life and liberty of citizens, except as per the procedure established by law, the court had said, while ordering the inquiry.

The Labour activist was arrested by Haryana Police in 2021, in connection with a protest held by the labourers outside the premises of a factory in Kundli. Activist Naudeep Kaur was also arrested in the same case. 

The agitators were protesting outside the factory premises on January 12 last year regarding non-payment of wages to labourers. According to the State, the protest turned violent, leading to injuries to some police personnel.

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