The Gujarat high court framed charges against four police personnel for contempt of court in a case relating to flogging of some persons in public and arresting them for hurling stones at a Navratri function in Kheda district in October 2022.
In a video of the incident, the policemen were seen flogging some Muslim men by tying them to a pole as a crowd cheered them on. The suspects were later taken away in a police van parked nearby.
A bench of justices AS Supehia and MR Mengdey observed that the four police officers actively took part in and executed the act of flogging individuals in public on October 4, 2022, which was in violation of the ground rules set by the Supreme Court in the DK Basu verdict of 1996. This verdict laid down the rules for the conduct of the police during arrests and detentions.
Consequently, they now face charges under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, the bench said. This section deals with deliberate defiance of court judgments, orders, or directives, and it also encompasses intentional violations of commitments made to the court. The offence is punishable with simple imprisonment of up to six months and/or a fine of up to ₹2,000.
The four accused, inspector AV Parmar, sub-inspector (SI) DB Kumavat, head constable KL Dabhi, and constable RR Dabhi, have been directed by the court to submit a written statement in their defence by October 11.
Of the 13 police officers implicated in the case, charges were not filed against nine on the report by the chief judicial magistrate (CJM) of Kheda.
In a July 12 order, the HC ruled that the proceedings were maintainable and ordered the CJM to prepare a report on the role of each of the respondents after verifying the contents of the videos and images on record.
The CJM on July 31 documented the roles of four police personnel.
The five men, namely Jahirmiya Malek (62), Maksudabanu Malek (45), Sahadmiya Malek (23), Sakilmiya Malek (24), and Shahidraja Malek (25) approached the high court last year to seek action against 13 police officers.
During last year’s Navratri festival on October 3, a group from the Muslim community reportedly threw stones at a garba dance event in Undhela village, resulting in injuries to villagers and police personnel.
A lawyer representing the respondents sought to argue that SI Kumavat, who was reported to be sitting on a chair in the CJM’s report, clearly hadn’t violated the Supreme Court guidelines. The court didn’t agree, noting that he was complicit in his inaction.
“The incident of flogging had happened in broad daylight. Presence of respondent Kumavat at the time of the incident is not in dispute. He has made no efforts to see that applicants who were being brutally flogged in public view by other respondents are rescued. No efforts are made by him to stop the flogging,” the court observed.
“On the contrary, his presence in the chowk with other assailants shows that he has accompanied other respondents and has played an active role in bringing the applicants to the chowk from the police station, and they were tied to the pole and mercilessly beaten,” it said. His presence alongside other assailants suggested his tacit consent to the illegal and humiliating act, making him ineligible for immunity from charges, according to the court.