Two policemen have been charged with murder after a man died in their custody at Handiaya town nearby on Wednesday evening.
Assistant sub-inspector Charanjit Singh, in charge of the Handiaya police post, and munshi Sudgar Singh are accused under Sections 302 (murder) and 34 (common intention to hurt) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Victim Baldev Singh (36) of Handiaya, initially, was reported to have consumed Celphos (a common pesticide), maybe in an attempt to show it as suicide. The murder case was registered after the victim’s family held on to the body, saying police had tortured him in custody after verbal argument at a checkpoint. Also, police couldn’t explain how Baldev Singh could get access to Celphos inside lockup.
Just before the death, police had searched his pockets, from which Rs 19,000 cash and a mobile phone are reported to be missing. He had been brought to the police post without any FIR (first-information report). The district police already are in controversy over the double suicide in Jodhpur village in their presence.
Baldev’s brother, Labh Singh, described how it came to this. “Returning from work on Wednesday evening, my sibling was near Gaddakhana Chowk in Handiaya when he got into an argument with police, who dragged him to the nearby police post, where they tortured him. When I got there, I found Baldev vomiting, with foul odour from his mouth. He died on way to a Ludhiana hospital,” he said.
Eyewitness Sukhjinder Singh says: “I saw the cops remove the money and mobile phone from the victim’s pocket. When we got back again after gathering more people, the cell was open and Baldev lying on the floor,” he said.
The victim’s relatives and farm union activists protested at the civil hospital here on Thursday to contest the police theory of suicide. Balour Singh Chhanna of the Bharti Kisan Union (Ugrahan) said: “We’ll not allow autopsy and cremation until the accused are arrested.”
Superintendent of police (detective) Swarn Singh Khanna said: “The accused have not been suspended, since there is a procedure for that.”
Deputy superintendent of police (DSP) PS Cheema confirmed that the two cops were accused of custodial death. Senior superintendent of police (SSP) Gurpreet Singh Toor said the accused were on the run.