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Custody deaths: State police under fire

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Custody deaths: State police under fire
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The death of a youth in Marangattupalli, Kottayam, allegedly due to custodial torture has triggered widespread protests that are gaining momentum casting a shadow over the Kerala police.

Marangattupalli Parakkal Siby, 40 who was undergoing treatment at Kottayam Medical College Hospital died after reportedly suffering head injuries in police custody. Sibi was taken into custody on June 29 after a fight with his 16-year old neighbor during which he created a ruckus in a drunken state. The police arrested him for drinking in public. Medical reports had said that the head injury led to Sibi’s death. But the police officials maintain that Sibi suffered a head injury during the brawl and not in custody which went unnoticed by the police and denied beating him up while in police custody. The family of the victim alleges that Sibi has suffered severe injuries while in custody and blamed the police for torturing him. The police registered a murder case against the 16-year old for causing injury leading to his death. The move has invited strong criticisms from the child welfare groups, the political parties as well as the public. The Kerala State Human Rights Commission has registered a suo motu case of custodial torture and has sought explanation from the Home secretary and the Kottayam SP. A Crime Branch Investigation is on and Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala has assured stringent punishment to the guilty.

While the police maintain that they didn’t attempt any physical assaults, they confessed that no protocols were followed while taking Sibi into custody. The medical examination that should be done as per the law after bringing him to the police station was not carried out. Sub Inspector of Marangattupilly police station K A Georgekutty who is accused to be behind the alleged assault, has been suspended for lapses on his part. The Supreme Court as well as the Human Rights Commission has charted out the policies and protocols related to arrests and detaining the accused. But they are not followed most of the time. Whether neglecting the protocols was a mere laxity on the part of the police or a deliberate attempt to cover up the custody torture, is yet to come to light. Sibi had collapsed unconscious in the police station the next day of taking him into custody after which he was taken to the Medical College hospital. He was in critical condition for many days finally succumbing to death on Saturday.

Questions are being raised as to why the statements of Sibi as well as his teen neighbor were not recorded. The investigations might lead to the truth. The Opposition has demanded a ‘tough action’ against the police officials who are found guilty. Siby had urinated and passed stool in the police station after the assault. When his aged parents came to visit him, the officials made them clean up the station. They were asked to catch an auto to the hospital despite having the police jeep at the station. They were not allowed to take Sibi with them despite their pleas. The police officials have failed to recognize human as well as civil rights of the people with no influence or hold in the government. They should be having a sense of law. The police should be made aware of the human rights, the rights of the accused and the legal policies and protocols by their seniors. So should be the police and the public enlightened about the legal rights of the accused in custody. Efforts to improve the conduct of the police officials should also be made. Let the tragic incident be an opportunity for the Kerala police to realize and understand the protocols and legal policies. Steps should be taken to punish the culprits and the inhumane tendencies existing inside the police force should be uprooted.

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