he Supreme Court has expressed shock at the stay of criminal proceedings for almost 13 years in a case pertaining to the custodial death of a man on March 1, 1997.
In an order delivered recently, the court directed the trial court to proceed with the trial pertaining to the death of the petitioner’s father almost on a day to day basis as far as possible and endeavour to conclude it within a period of one year from its commencement.
The accused police officer had challenged the summons issued by the trial court before the Allahabad High Court. While issuing notice in the matter, the High Court had also granted an interim stay on September 13, 2007. The matter continued in that position since then for the last 13 years with the criminal proceedings stayed.
SC noted that at one stage, the High Court had even reserved its orders on the proceedings on February 14, 2013, but had again listed the matter for rehearing on March 6, 2013, which again did not produce any result.
In 2018, the son of the deceased approached the Supreme Court against the criminal proceedings being put in abeyance by way of the High Court’s interim order.
A division bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Aniruddha Bose and Krishna Murari on September 23, 2020, while vacating the interim order of the High Court expressed its displeasure at staying the Trial Court’s order summoning the accused police officer for 13 years.
The bench directed that its order be placed before the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court for administrative action to examine why such a situation had come to pass and why the trial Court order remained stayed for 13 years by an ad-interim order in case of custodial death. It also sought a report from the High Court.
The deceased father of the petitioner was the owner of a brickyard at Varansai, UP who was illegally arrested by the police of PS Kotwali Sahdol, Madya Pradesh and died after being allegedly assaulted by them. The petitioner contended that a false story of a heart attack had been concocted to cover up the brutalized murder of his father and to shield the misdeeds of police personnel.
A criminal case was registered against the accused police officers under Sections 364 [Kidnapping or abducting in order to murder], 304 [Punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder] and 506 [Punishment for criminal intimidation] of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
In 1998, a closure report was sought to be filed in the matter which was rejected by the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Varanasi. The CJM had accepted the protest petition filed by the son of the deceased and issued non-bailable warrants against the accused persons. It is this order of the CJM which was challenged by one of the police officers, namely R. Rajan, in which a stay on the CJM’s order was granted and which continued for 13 years until the apex court vacated it.
The petitioner was represented by Advocate-on-Record (AoR) Divyesh Pratap Singh.