Bhartesh Singh Thakur
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, July 16
The CBI Special Court, Haryana, convicted two Haryana police personnel over a custodial death 14 years after a person in illegal custody was burnt to death to extract a confession in a murder case.
CBI Special Judge Sushil Kumar Garg sentenced Constable Pawan Kumar to life imprisonment for setting a murder accused Bhavan Dutt on fire after pouring petrol on him, and the then SHO of Madhuban (Karnal) police station Sub-Inspector Ranbir Singh to three-year rigorous imprisonment, for wrongful confinement for extracting confession and making false entries in the
Pawan Kumar was fined Rs 61,000 while Ranbir Singh was fined Rs 31,000. The 50 per cent of the fine would be given to dependent of the deceased.
The case dates back to 2007. Police arrested Dutt in connection with the murder of a photographer called Rajinder after a month’s search for him. He was detained from August 30 till September 1.
On September 1, his family was informed that he was admitted to Arpana Hospital, Madhuban, after a fire incident.
By the evening, he was shifted to Parveen Hospital. Here, Dutt gave an interview to a TV channel reporter that he was beaten up mercilessly throughout the night in the custody, and out of frustration he set himself on fire.
The same day, Dutt was further shifted to Civil Hospital, Karnal. At 3:10 am on September 2, 2007, he recorded a statement before a magistrate and told that a motorcycle was parked behind him during interrogation. The petrol was taken from the motorcycle and poured on him, he told the magistrate. His interrogators questioned him repeatedly about his role in the murder. When he refused to admit his involvement, he was set on fire, he told the magistrate.
“He (Pawan) stated that I would not agree in this way and then took out a matchstick and after illuminating the same, threw it on me, due to which I was caught in fire,” Dutt said in his dying declaration.
He was shifted to PGIMS, Rohtak, on September 2, 2007, where he died the next day.
On April 27, 2010, while hearing a complaint case at Karnal, Additional District and Sessions Judge RK Sondhi made a reference to the Punjab and Haryana High Court for CBI investigation in the case. Following a reference from National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Haryana Police finally registered an FIR against Pawan Kumar on November 29, 2010.
The high court entrusted the case to CBI on August 23, 2011. A board of doctors from PGI, Chandigarh, couldn’t conclude that whether burn injuries were homicidal or suicidal.
The CBI Special Court, located in Panchkula, was to decide whether it was suicide or murder as per his dying declaration.
CBI counsel KP Singh submitted that Dutt was murdered to extract a confession.
Defence claimed that Dutt was 17-year-old and that’s why was not arrested. It added that he was summoned for September 1, 2007, when he attempted suicide.
While relying on dying declaration, the court said that “the situation in which a person is on the deathbed is so solemn and serene when he is dying that the grave position in which he is placed, is the reason in law to accept veracity of his statement”.
It added that exclusion of dying declaration would be “miscarriage of justice” as the “victim being generally the only eye-witness in a serious crime”.
“The principle on which dying declaration is admitted in evidence is indicated in legal maxim “nemo moriturus proesumitur mentiri—a man will not meet his maker with a lie in his mouth,” said the order.