It has been two years since 65-year-old Babu Nisar Shaikh, a migrant worker from Telangana died in custody at the Fatehgunj police station in Vadodara. Sleuths trailing the case, however, remain, clueless about the “missing body.” Only a year after the gruesome mystery, the State Crime Investigation Department (CID), filed a 900-page primary chargesheet in the Vadodara court against the six arrested policemen
Of the eight accused policemen, six have been in judicial custody for culpable homicide and tampering with evidence. They also face charges of being “uncooperative” with the investigation, according to the recent prosecution submission in the Gujarat High Court.
The chargesheet mentions that the six accused falsely implicated Shaikh Nisar in a theft case on the fateful day. It records witness accounts on how the policemen tortured Shaikh in the police station, used the official patrol vehicle to create an alibi and then, disposed the body using the car of an accused policemen who is out on bail.
Now, the deceased’s son Salim, has moved a Special Leave Petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court seeking compensation. The SLP also challenges the December 8, 2020, final judgment of the High Court order, seeking to dispose the habeas corpus petition without granting compensation to the family.
Nisar family’s counsel advocate Sajid Gajiawala alleges discrepancies in the investigation. “The CID has not recorded the statement of the first officer, (deputy commissioner of police), who prepared the initial report into an internal inquiry into the death. The report clearly mentioned the crime but the Vadodara police did not book an FIR for several months until the HC hearing began. Similarly, it has not taken statements of other top police officials, who were in command during the time that the incident occurred. Despite the CID having emptied the Narmada main canal on two occasions in an attempt to locate the body, one of the accused confessed that his hatchback was used to ferry Shaikh’s body for cremation on the riverbanks of Mahisagar.”
The chargesheet also states that the “CCTV cameras were switched off on the day of the alleged crime.” A total 105 statements have been recorded after taking into account witness testimonies. Mr Qureshi also added that the petitioners approached the Apex Court because the state HC had directed the family to approach the sessions court with a request for interim compensation, eligible under the provision of custodial deaths.
Sadly, the statistics point at a grim picture where it comes to custodial deaths in Gujarat. For the recorded 1,888 custodial deaths in 20 years, only 26 policemen stand convicted.