Court pulls up police for custodial torture

The Hindu, 10th Dec. 2000
By Our Staff Reporter

KOCHI, DEC. 9 On the eve of the World Human Rights Day, two court judgments that came down heavily on police torture, have come as a welcome relief in a State where the police top the list of human-rights abusers.

The two judgments, one of which awarded jail terms to six policemen, are rare in that rarely do policemen get sentenced for the widespread practice of custodial torture. In the second, the court has ordered payment of compensation by two policemen as well as the Government to the mother of a torture victim, who later died of the torture.

On Thursday, at the end of a 12-year-long process to bring the guilty before the law, the judicial first class magistrate, Muvattupuzha, handed down imprisonment ranging from two-and-a- half years to five years (reduced to one to two years as the imprisonment will run concurrently) to the former SI and five policemen of Kothamangalam police station in Ernakulam district. The SI, even after a furore raised in the media as well as in the Assembly over the brutality, was promoted to circle inspector.

It was in 1988 that a Dalit youth, Krishnankutty, who was arrested by the Kothamangalm police for an alleged theft, was subjected to unheard-of cruelties for two weeks in the lock-up. The then SI, Mr. K.S. Sukumaran Nair, who is currently circle inspector of Crime Branch, Kottayam, and five constables had forced the youth to eat human excrement and drink urine. The youth had suffered physical and emotional pain for several years after the torture.

The fact that even such a sensational case which was live in the media for days and was also raised in the Assembly took 12 years before the sentence was pronounced shows how near-impossible it is to bring the torturers in uniform to book.

In the second case, again in Ernakulam district, the additional sub-court, Paravur, ordered two policemen who had earlier been found guilty of torturing a 27-year-old, Mr. Manackil Thomas of Gothuruthu, to pay Rs. 1.25 lakhs to be paid to the victim's mother. The State Government has to cough up a part of the compensation.

Thomas had been tortured by a police team in October 1994 during an anti-hooch demonstration. Because of the torture, Thomas' backbone had been shattered. A fortnight later, he died in hospital. The court's compensation award is on a petition by Thomas' mothe

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