Hari Chavan’s death in police custody has once again highlighted the need for transparency in the interrogation process.
The 47-year-old street vendor had been picked up for questioning from his Ambhujwadi residence around 5am on Thursday, after his son-in-law named him as an accomplice in a burglary case. Hours later, his daughter Heena walked in at the Malwani police station to find his body hanging from a window grille.
“Saifan was arrested at 12.30am on Thursday. During interrogation, he said the stolen valuables were with Chavan and hence he was picked up for questioning,” said a crime branch officer.
The crime branch officers initially claimed Chavan was kept in a detection room. However, after Heena pointed out the room where she found the body, HT found it to be the lock-up.
The police then claimed they were using the lock-up as an interrogation room.
Officers at the Malwani police station said there was no evidence against Chavan, which means, they had no right to detain him, much less put him in a lock-up.
The move flouts all articles of the Constitution and that of the Criminal Procedure Code.
“Police excesses and the maltreatment of detainees/undertrial prisoners or suspects tarnishes the image of any civilised nation and encourages the men in khaki to consider themselves to be above the law and sometimes even to become a law unto themselves,” noted an earlier Supreme Court judgment.
The police also refused to comment on whether a diary entry was made of Chavan’s detention, as it required by the law.
Moreover, Chavan’s family members, who witnessed his post-mortem, claimed his body had various injury marks. Even as the post-mortem report, too, mentions an injury, officers at Malwani police station either refuse to comment or continue to dodge questions.
“There were injury marks on his face, thighs, chest and back. But the police continue to claim he died because of hanging,” said Pralhad, Chavan’s relative.
Third day into the custodial death of the vendor, the protests have toned down. When Chavan’s wife Sehla recovered, who was in a hospital, her family was forced to break the news to her.
“Her health has deteriorated yet again, but we cannot keep the news of her husband’s death from her any longer,” said Chavan’s daughter-in-law.
Rights of the person who is arrested or detained
The following requirements should be followed in all cases of arrest or detention till legal provisions are made in that behalf as preventive measures:
1. The police personnel carrying out the arrest and handling the interrogation of the arrestee should bear accurate, visible and clear identification and name tags with their designations. The particulars of all such police personnel who handle interrogation of the arrestee must be recorded in a register
2. The officer carrying out the arrest must prepare a memo of the event that needs to be attested by at least one witness, either a family member or someone from the locality. It also needs to be counter signed by the arrestee and shall contain the time and date of arrest.
3. A person who has been arrested or detained and is being held in custody in a police station or an interrogation centre is entitled to inform at least one friend or relative, as soon as practicable, about the event
4. An entry must be made in a diary at the place of detention regarding the arrest
On being asked why the vendor, Hari Chavan, was put in the lock-up, the Malwani police said they were using it as an interrogation room
The Malwani police refused to comment on whether a diary entry was made of Chavan’s detention
Questions on the identity of the constable who was deputed to take care of the lock- up also went unanswered. The crime branch officers are recording the statements of the detection staff