Police have defended in the Gujarat High Court the public flogging of some people from a minority community following stone pelting in the state’s Kheda district last year saying the persons were “cornered” to maintain peace and it was not done with any criminal intent.
This defence comes even as an interim police report talks of action against six cops in connection with the incident. Kheda Superintendent of Police R H Gadhiya and Police Inspector of Local Crime Branch, A V Parmar, filed separate affidavits before the bench of Justices N V Anjaria and Niral Mehta on Tuesday in a contempt case regarding the alleged flogging of some Muslims accused of stone-pelting during an event last year.
During Navratri in October 2022, some villagers as well as policemen were injured after a mob comprising members of the Muslim community allegedly hurled stones at a garba dance event at Undhela village in Kheda district.
Videos purportedly showing police personnel publicly flogging three of the 13 arrested accused went viral on social media.
Later, some of the accused approached the HC claiming that the police personnel involved in the act had committed contempt of court by flouting Supreme Court directions on people in custody as laid down in the D K Basu vs State of West Bengal case.
In his affidavit, Gadhiya said when the accused persons were taken to Undhela village for investigation, they “tried to misbehave and abuse the police officers”.
“When 8 accused were brought at the village as part of investigation on October 4, the male accused, after getting down from police vehicle, started abusing verbally the police officials and one accused Shejadmiya Shukatmiya spitted on police inspector of LCB, Ashok Parmar,” the SP said in his affidavit.
The SP further said other accused persons “collected stones in their hands and started instigating members of Hindu community who had gathered there. The accused did not pay heed to requests made for sitting in a police vehicle and started a scuffle with police”.
Referring to the alleged flogging incident, the SP said that “as a result of this incident, there was a hue and cry, and it is only with a view to maintain the peace and harmony, that the suspects were cornered so that no untoward incident further takes place”.
Through the affidavit, the SP also informed the court that as soon as he received instructions from the Range IG to inquire into the alleged flogging, he deputed Deputy SP of Kapadvanj Division to probe into the issue.
In his interim report of December 1, the DySP stated when the accused persons had started misbehaving, the on-duty police officials were required to control them using other means instead of “physically abusing the accused with lathi”.
“As per the interim report submitted by the DySP Kapadvanj, Range IG immediately acted against erring police officers and chargesheets have been issued to six policemen, including LCB PI A V Parmar, while the departmental proceedings are pending,” Gadhiya said.
He submitted that transcripts of call recordings revealed that the entire incident of stone-pelting was “preset and pre-meditated with a view to create fear amongst the members of Hindu community and to disturb the law and order”.
More than 150 persons from the minority community had cordoned off the Mataji Chowk and started pelting stones. The “pre-meditated” offence left 8 residents and three policemen injured, said the SP.
In his affidavit, Police Inspector A V Parmar, claimed that the police officials in question had acted within their powers “Respondents (policemen) acted within the scope and ambit of their powers and there has not been any act committed by them which is beyond the powers conferred on the respondents. The acts of respondents are the acts in discharge of their duties and these acts were not done with any criminal intent,” said Parmar in his affidavit.
He drew the court’s attention that “more or less, every year when Hindu festivals like Navratri is celebrated, some altercations happen between Hindus and Muslims of the village”. He added that one of the petitioners is already facing two cases of rioting and he was the main conspirator in this case too.
“The petitioners themselves have engaged in disturbing the social fabric of a village by creating rifts between two communities and by assaulting people of that village. Petitioners are guilty of not stating true facts before this court and they themselves had created an atmosphere of fear and terror amongst law abiding citizens,” he said.
Parmar said the present proceedings initiated by the petitioners for contempt of court are not maintainable as per the law.
“The Parliament has already amended the CrPC (Code of Civil Procedure), 1908, and made appropriate safeguards by inserting provisions for the arrested persons and therefore guidelines issued earlier by the SC in the D K Basu case would give way in favour of those provisions of the amended CrPC,” he said.