December 9, 2022

Sube Singh v. State of Haryana- An analysis

The case of sube sing is considered an important given regard to its judgement on considering the scope of compensation to the person who is tortured by police and whose right to life under Article 21 is violated.

The facts of the case

  • A night of 10.3.1998, at about 10 a.m. an ASI, along with Police constables while patrolling, received information that one Joginder Singh (son of sube singh) and his associates were conspiring in his house, to apply pressure on some tender-bidders. When the police party proceeded towards Joginder Singh’s house, they saw two young men coming from the opposite side, on a motorcycle. On seeing the Police party, the motorcycle suddenly turned back.
  • On suspicion, the Police party gave chase and stopped the motorcycle, both riders were recognised as ‘Amrik Singh’ and ‘Joginder Singh’. When police inquired to joginder, he again ran when chased by police, turned and shot a fire by pistol to a constable, who was hit and collapsed. In this ensuing confusion, both riders were escaped.
  • Against this incident, an FIR was registered under Section 302/307/352/186 IPC.
  • In the meantime, the Police party which had gone to the house of Joginder, in search of him, did not find him and brought his father Sube Singh (Petitioner) to the Police Station. The petitioner denied any knowledge of the whereabouts of his son Joginder. After inquiries, the petitioner was released.

Writ petition in P&H High Court

  • The petitioner along with his brother-in-law filed a writ petition in the Punjab & Haryana High Court alleging harassment, torture and illegal detention for three days (from 10.3.1998 to 13.3.1998) and again for a day (15.3.1998 to 16.3.1998) and prayed for action against the concerned Police Officers and for a judicial enquiry.
  • The High Court disposed of the petition by order dated 24April 1998, with an observation that petitioners may file a criminal complaint in a competent court.
  • The petitioner went underground for a few months. Further enquiries by the police revealed that several cases had been registered against the petitioner and his son Joginder Singh. Joginder was declared as ‘proclaimed offender’.
  • The petitioner published a notice in ‘Dainik Tribune’ that he had disowned his son Joginder and was not responsible for his actions.
  • The Police continued with their inquiries tried to ascertain his whereabouts by making enquiries with the petitioner and his relatives/friends

Letter to Supreme Court

  • After the rejection from High court, the petitioner sent a letter to supreme court which was received 19Nov 1998, wherein he alleged that ASI along with some Police Officers, came to his house on 10.3.1998 at about 11 a.m, to enquire about the whereabouts of his son Joginder; and that when he informed them that he was not aware of it, they started beating him.
  • Thereafter, the Police took him, his wife and two minor daughters forcibly to the Police Post, through the bazaar. He was beaten with sticks on the way. When they reached the Police Post, Superintendent of Police as also the Deputy Superintendent of Police, were present.
  • When ASI informed them that the persons brought were the father, mother and sisters of Joginder, the S.P. directed that they may be brought to ‘correct mental attitude’. The ASI took him inside and beat him for about 10 minutes and brought him back before the SP again. By then, his wife and daughters were made to sit in an uncomfortable posture (as students are made to sit in schools by way of punishment).
  • When the petitioner stated that he was not aware of his son’s whereabouts, the S.P. became furious and ordered his men to remove his moustache, whereupon ASI sat on his chest (with three policemen pressing his hands and feet) and plucked his moustache. Again, they started beating him, searched his pockets and took away Rs.2,350 which he was carrying. Then the police took him back to his house and ransacked the house.
  • ASI broke open the lock of his trunk and seized his licensed gun, some cartridges and Arms licence, as also some jewellery found in the trunk. Thereafter, the petitioner was taken back to the Police Post. Though his wife and daughters were sent back to the house, he was illegally detained in Police custody for a day and then taken to P.S. Garhi where he was kept for 10 days and during the first 5 days of such detention, he was regularly beaten. Because of such police harassment and torture, when he was released he and his younger son fled from his house.
  • On 8.7.1998, the petitioner returned to his house. Another ASI, (who had succeeded previous ASI) and Munshi (HC) of Police Post, came to his house, with four other policemen, handcuffed him and took him to the Police Post. He was tortured in the Police Post by the ASI and Head Constable Munshi by thrashing him thrice, each time continuously for 15 minutes. When he requested for water, he was forced to drink hot water with salt.
  • The Munshi, kept him in a wooden Shikanza for 5 days and he was not allowed to sleep.. Thereafter, he was released with a condition to visit the Police Post every day in the morning and evening. During his detention, he was even not allowed to meet with friends and relatives.

Prayer in the letter

He alleged that in view of such torture, he was forced to leave his house and remain outside. He prayed for a

  • direction to the Police to stop the atrocities and torture.
  • compensation for himself and his wife and daughters for the social, physical and financial loss, and
  • return of his licensed gun, gold ornaments and other belongings.
  • a thorough inquiry into the atrocities and torture committed by the Police and
  • imposition of punishment to those who were responsible.

That letter was registered as Petition by Supreme court 11january 1999. Court also appointed an amicus curie to assist the case.

Second Round of harassment

Petitioner filed the writ petition, but police was still in search of Joginder and in doing so, police made some search and house arrest of his relatives. Petitioner and his brother was again harassed by police however, state filed affidavit in denying the allegations.

Direction for investigation

The court was not satisfied with the counter affidavit, filed by the state and directed the state of Haryana for a detailed investigation in the case. But, the report of this investigation was also not satisfactory as it substantiated the allegations.

Therefore, the court directed on 17october 2001 for CBI inquiry. CBI in its report dated 22July 2002, concluded that some of the allegations of the petitioner were substantiated while several others were not substantiated. On the report of CBI, the court directed the state to lodge FIR against Police officials and in following so, an FIR was lodged.

Letter Proceedings

On 11.11.2002, the Court noted that the FIR was registered and an appropriate charge sheet would be filed by the State in due course, and that the officers concerned have been suspended/posted outside the district. The Court also took note of the submission of the amicus curiae that in such cases, apart from CBI inquiry and criminal prosecution, compensation has to be awarded to the victims.

Compensation to the Petitioner

The court after considering the question of compensation and referring several cases where compensation was awarded to victims whose rights under Article 21 was violated particularly under police system, held that,

“In this case, there is no clear or incontrovertible evidence about custodial torture, nor any medical report of any injury or disability. The grievance of the petitioner and his relatives is against different officers in different Police Stations at different points of time. More importantly, several of the allegations are proved to be exaggerated and false.

We, therefore, do not consider this to be a fit case for award of compensation. All reliefs which should be granted in such a case, have already been granted by ordering an inquiry by the CBI and ensuring that the Police Officers named are prosecuted.

The law will have to take own course. 26. This order will not come in the way of any civil court awarding compensation in an action in tort or the criminal court awarding compensation under section 357 CPC in the pending prosecution against any of the officers, if the charges are established. With the said observations, we dispose of this petition, as no further reliefs/directions are called for.”

Steps suggested by court to be taken

The court stated-

Unfortunately, police in the country have given room for an impression in the minds of public, that whenever there is a crime, investigation usually means rounding up all persons concerned (say all servants in the event of a theft in the employer’s house, or all acquaintances of the deceased, in the event of a murder) and subjecting them to third-degree interrogation in the hope that someone will spill the beans. This impression may not be correct, but instances are not wanting where police have resorted to such a practice. Lack of training in scientific investigative methods, lack of modern equipment, lack of adequate personnel, and lack of a mindset respecting human rights, are generally the reasons for such illegal action.

One other main reason is that the public (and men in power) expect results from police in too short a span of time, forgetting that methodical and scientific investigation is a time consuming and lengthy process. Police are branded as inefficient even when there is a short delay in catching the culprits in serious crimes. The expectation of quick results in high-profile or heinous crimes builds enormous pressure on the police to somehow ‘catch’ the ‘offender’. The need to have quick results tempts them to resort to third degree methods. They also tend to arrest “someone” in a hurry on the basis of incomplete investigation, just to ease the pressure. Time has come for an attitudinal change not only in the minds of the police, but also on the part of the public.

Difficulties in criminal investigation and the time required for such investigation should be recognized, and police should be allowed to function methodically without interferences or unnecessary pressures. If police are to perform better, the public should support them, government should strengthen and equip them, and men in power should not interfere or belittle them. The three wings of the Government should encourage, insist and ensure thorough scientific investigation under proper legal procedures, followed by prompt and efficient prosecution. Be that as it may.

Custodial violence requires to be tackled from two ends, that is, by taking measures that are remedial and preventive. Award of compensation is one of the remedial measures after the event. Effort should be made to remove the very causes, which lead to custodial violence, so as to prevent such occurrences. Following steps, if taken, may prove to be effective preventive measures:

a) Police training should be re-oriented, to bring in a change in the mindset and attitude of the Police personnel in regard to investigations, so that they will recognize and respect human rights, and adopt thorough and scientific investigation methods.

b) The functioning of lower level Police Officers should be continuously monitored and supervised by their superiors to prevent custodial violence and adherence to lawful standard methods of investigation.

c) Compliance with the eleven requirements enumerated in D.K. Bas, should be ensured in all cases of arrest and detention.

d) Simple and fool-proof procedures should be introduced for prompt registration of first information reports relating to all crimes.

e) Computerization, video-recording, and modern methods of records maintenance should be introduced to avoid manipulations, insertions, substitutions and ante-dating in regard to FIRs, Mahazars, inquest proceedings, Port-mortem Reports and Statements of witnesses etc. and to bring in transparency in action. a

f) An independent investigating agency (preferably the respective Human Rights Commissions or CBI) may be entrusted with adequate power, to investigate complaints of custodial violence against Police personnel and take stern and speedy action followed by prosecution, wherever necessary. The endeavour should be to achieve a balanced level of functioning, where police respect human rights, adhere to law, and take confidence building measures (CBMs), and at the same time, firmly deal with organized crime, terrorism, white-collared crime, deteriorating law and order situation etc.

Reference

Sube Singh v. State of Haryana, (2006 3 SCC 178)