Raghbir Singh Vs. State of Haryana
 INSC 60 (31 March 1980)
VENKATARAMIAH, E.S. (J)
CITATION: 1980 AIR 1087 1980 SCR (3) 277 1980
SCC (3) 70
Criminal trial-Death of a suspect in police
custody-Use of third degree methods by police in investigation- Disapproved.
The prosecution alleged that the petitioner,
an Assistant Sub-Inspector of Police, subjected one of the suspects in a theft
case to severe flagellation which resulted in the death of the suspect. Medical
examination of the deceased revealed that death was due to asphyxiation.
On a study of the circumstances and the
incontrovertible facts of flagellation and asphyxiation within police premises
and the testimony of eye witnesses, the trial court found the petitioner guilty
of the offence with which he was charged and sentenced him to imprisonment for
life. His explanation that death was due to suicidal hanging was rejected by
the trial court as well as by the High Court.
Dismissing the petition,
HELD: There was no error either in the
appreciation of evidence or the conclusion reached by the courts below. [278 D]
[It is disturbing to find diabolical recurrence of police tortures resulting in
a terrible scare in the minds of common citizens that their lives and liberty
are under a new peril when the guardians of the law gore human rights to death.
Police lock-ups are becoming more and more awesome cells. This development is
disastrous to the human rights awareness and the humanist constitutional
order.] [278 E]
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Special
Leave Petition (Crl.) No. 679/1980. F From the Judgment and order dated
6-12-1979 of the Punjab & Haryana High Court in Crl. A. No. 880/78.
A. N. Mulla, T. L. Garg and N. D. Garg for
The order of the Court was delivered by
KRISHNA IYER, J., The criminal scenario with a tragic crescendo which has been
unfurled in this Special Leave Petition starts with' a bunch of 'suspects'
being brought up to the police post which was in charge of the petitioner, an
Assistant Sub-Inspector. A case of theft in some officers house had been
reported to the police the previous night and so as part of the investigation
the suspects were picked up and suffered as part of the process of 'investigation'
severe flagellation. Chhabila, one of those so tortured, succumbed to his
injuries. This 278 triggered off investigation into the murderous conduct of
the investigator, the petitioner, and another. Medical examination revealed the
cruel cause of death as asphyxiation. One of the injuries which, according to
the doctor, made the deceased unconscious was torture on both the soles of the
foot of the victim. A trial for murder followed, a conviction under s. 302 was
enter and eventually the High Court confirmed the conviction and sentence of
life imprisonment so far as the petitioner was concerned. A false explanation
of suicidal hanging was set up by the police officer-accused but this was
rejected and eventually on a study of the circumstances and the incontrovertible
facts of flagellation and asphyxiation within police premises and the testimony
of eyewitnesses about nocturnal detention within the police station and beating
up of the victim, the courts below concurrently found the guilt of the petitioner
proved beyond reasonable doubt. Strenuous submissions have been made to us by
Shri Mulla to discredit the prosecution version of murder but we are not in the
least convinced that there is any error in the appreciation or the conclusion.
We are deeply disturbed by the diabolical
recurrence of police torture resulting in a terrible scarce in the minds of
common citizens that their lives and liberty are under a new peril when the
guardians of the law gore human rights to death. The vulnerability of human rights
assumes a traumatic, torture some poignancy when violent violation is
perpetrated by the police arm of the State whose function is to protect the
citizen and not to commit gruesome offences against them as has happened in
this case, Police lock-up if reports in newspapers have a streak of credence,
are becoming more and more awesome cells. This development is disastrous to our
human rights awareness and humanist constitutional order.
The State, at the highest administrative and
political levels, we hope, will organise special strategies to prevent and
punish brutality by police methodology. Otherwise, the credibility of the rule
of law in our Republic vis-a-vis the people of the country will deteriorate.
We conclude with the disconcerting note
sounded by Abraham Lincoln:
"If you once forfeit the confidence of
your fellow citizens you can never regain their respect and esteem.
It is true that you can fool all the people
some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all
the people all the time.
279 These observations have become necessary
to impress upon' the State police echelons the urgency of stamping out the vice
of 'third degree' from the investigative armoury of the police.
P. B. R. Petition dismissed.