Holding four policemen guilty in the Kheda public flogging case, the Gujarat High Court on Thursday sentenced them to 14 days of imprisonment along with a fine of Rs 2,000. However, the court stayed the order for three months following a request from the accused, so as to appeal against the verdict.
The verdict came after over a year following the incident in which several Muslim men in Gujarat’s Kheda were publicly flogged by several police personnel.
Terming the act of public flogging by the police as “inhumane” and an “act against humanity”, the HC division bench of Justices AS Supehia and Gita Gopi also elucidated on the physical and emotional damage acts of torture or humiliation can cause. The court also recorded that arrestees have the right to life which also includes the right to life with dignity and that the same cannot be in abeyance upon a person’s arrest.
The bench also took to quoting Mother Teresa, who had said, “Human rights are not a privilege conferred by government, they are every human being’s entitlement by virtue of humanity. The right of life does not depend and must not be contingent on the pleasure of anyone else, not even a parent or a sovereign.”
The court noted that in this case, the accused cops “have defiled the human rights and dignity of the complainants as if they were conferred with the privilege to do so”.
The court also held that custodians of law and order “should not become depredations of civil liberties for their duty is to protect and not to abdicate” and that an accused person’s “dignity cannot be allowed to be comatose” once the person is in police custody.
On October 3, 2022, at around midnight, according to the police complaint, a mob of 150-200 people allegedly attacked a garba event at Undhela village by pelting stones inside a Swaminarayan temple and allegedly “hurting religious sentiments”.
The incident grabbed public attention after videos surfaced on social media of the police publicly flogging several of the said men at the village square following the incident, with the public cheering, the next day, on October 4, 2022.
Five of those victims Jahirmiya Malek (62), Maksudabanu Malek (45), Sahadmiya Malek (23), Sakilmiya Malek (24) and Shahidraja Malek (25) had then moved the Gujarat HC with a contempt petition against 13 police personnel, accusing them of flogging and illegal detention. They submitted that the police officials violated the guidelines as enshrined under the Supreme Court judgment of DK Basu versus the State of West Bengal, which provides for guidelines to be followed by police during arrest and detention. The victims also sought to be compensated for the infringement of their rights.
The HC, after directing an inquiry report from a magistrate in Nadiad, initiated contempt proceedings under Section 2 (b) (civil contempt) read with Section 12 (punishment for contempt) of the Contempt of Courts Act, against four accused police officials – A V Parmar, DB Kumavat, Laxmansinh Kanaksinh Dabhi and Rajubhai Dabhi.
The division bench on Thursday, holding them guilty under the charges, sentenced them and also directed that they present themselves before the registrar judicial of the Gujarat High Court within 10 days of receipt of the order, following which the registrar judicial shall accordingly refer them to the appropriate judicial authority.
On a concluding note, Justice Supehia orally remarked to counsel of the accused Prakash Jani that the court was “not happy” with the directions it has had to issue in the case as the court did not think there would come a day when it would have to “ask police officers to undergo simple imprisonment”.