Eight years after the custodial death of 25- year-old Agnelo Valdaris, eight police personnel attached to Wadala Government Railway Police (GRP) station in Mumbai will be charged for murdering him.
Special POCSO judge Jayshri R Pulate has allowed the plea filed by Valdaris’ family for prosecuting the policemen for murder, a charge which was also resisted by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) which probed the case. The central agency had maintained that there was no material to support the charge of murder.
“The material on record in the form of statements of witnesses, postmortem report, copies of station diaries and the memorandum of the scene of the offence, reveals that prima facie it is the case where charge under Section 302 (murder), 295-A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) of the IPC can be framed,” said the court while allowing the plea.
The eight police personnel who would also face the murder charge include Jitendra Rathod, Archana Pujari, Shatrugan Tondse, Tushar Khairnar, Ravindra Mane, Suresh Mane, Vikas Suryawanshi and Satyajit Kamble.
According to the prosecution case, Agnelo and three others were allegedly tortured and sexually abused by the Wadala GRP on April 18, 2014. The four men were picked up by the police from their residences on April 15 and April 16, suspecting them to be involved in chain snatching.
They were taken to the GRP station where they were allegedly beaten up and questioned where they had kept a gold chain and a ring suspected to be stolen by them. Agnello allegedly died due to the torture while in police custody and a first information report (FIR) was registered against the personnel concerned, attached to the Wadala GRP.
Acting on a petition by his father, Bombay high court transferred the case to CBI, which filed charge-sheet on December 3, 2016 against the eight police officers, invoking provisions of the Indian Penal Code and also relevant provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act as well. The charges levelled against them, however, did not include the charge of murder.
Acting on a separate petition by the father of the victim, the high court later directed CBI to invoke the charge of murder in the case. The order was challenged before the Supreme Court, which directed trial court to decide the issue after hearing all the stakeholders – the victim’s family, the accused and prosecution.
Accordingly, the special POCSO court heard all of them and passed the order, which became available on Wednesday and held that the police personnel were liable to be charged for murder, primarily in view of the material on record like the postmortem report, which showed that the deceased had incised wounds, multiple abrasions and contusions. There was a fracture on ribs on both sides. Injury marks of bluish red colour were caused during the period when the victim was in police custody.
Besides, the trial court also relied on the statements of others apprehended with the victim. “The co-accused i.e. Sufiyan Khan (25), Mohd. Hajam (19) and a minor who are also victims of custodial torture said in their statements that they have witnessed the torture meted out to the deceased. The statement of co-accused shows that they were also sexually abused by the police who are meant to protect society. Therefore, the conduct of police officers from the inception of arrest of deceased and co-accused is suspicious,” said the court.
The court also relied on the statement of medical officer Dr. Ejaz Husin who said that the accused cops pressurised him to mention that the injuries were self- inflicted. Further the court said that the CCTV footage which could have given a clear picture is missing.
“There is one more aspect which is required to be considered that CCTV footage of Wadala railway police station was not preserved in spite of directions issued by the Hon’ble High Court vide its order dated 16.06.2014. Therefore, it also leads to negative inference against police officers / accused,” the court said.