Custodial Death Of Tata Rao: Prosecution Of Gajuwaka Police Sought

The Human Rights Forum (HRF) demands that criminal prosecution be immediately initiated against the police personnel of Gajuwaka PS for Thursday’s (January 7) custodial death of Garikina Tata Rao (33).

A HRF fact-finding team visited Gajuwaka police station on Friday and spoke with police officials and examined the lock-up room and bathroom. The team also went to Appikonda Chepalapalem and spoke with friends and relatives of the deceased as well as local villagers. The team consisted of HRF State general secretary VS Krishna, Visakhapatnam district president M Sarat and district joint-secretary N Srinivas.

The police version that Tata Rao hanged himself in the Gajuwaka police station bathroom at about 6 pm on Thursday and that he was rushed by them to the KGH where he died is a complete falsehood. Tata Rao, who the police describe as a rowdy-sheeter, was not arrested on Thursday afternoon (Jan 7th) as the police claim but was picked up by the police at about 9 am on Wednesday (Jan 6th) from Appikonda Chepalapalem. Tata Rao ran when he saw two cops in plainclothes, Patrudu and Ramprasad, but they gave chase, nabbed him, beat him up and took him with them on their motorcycle. He was beaten up again a little distance from the village at the “Edammavaari Gudi” and then taken to the Gajuwaka police station where further violence was inflicted upon him by the police.

Tata Rao’s father G Kotayya went to the Gajuwaka PS the next day, on Thursday afternoon, at about 1 pm. Tata Rao told him that the police were demanding money and that they had beaten him badly.

The police version that Tata Rao hanged himself in the bathroom with strings that he managed to tie together from several broomsticks in the lock-up room is a ridiculous assertion. They maintain that he did not die in the police station but was rushed in a serious condition to the KGH where he succumbed. Why did the police have to take a person in a critical condition all the way to KGH which is about 18 km from Gajuwaka and not to a hospital close by?

It is clear that Tata Rao was held in illegal custody and subjected to severe violence. He succumbed because of this violence inflicted upon him by the police. The police, in a bid to cover up their crime, have not only screened evidence but are putting out the utterly implausible story that Rao took his own life. The police alone are responsible for causing his death. Passing off a custodial death as due to suicide has become a favourite concoction for the State’s police. We recall that they trotted out a similar brazen lie in the custodial death case of Pilli Satyanarayana at the Parawada PS on December 5 last year.

Custodial violence and abuse of police power is a matter of serious concern. This is the second custodial death in a month’s time in the Visakhapatnam metropolitan region. The law criminalises torture, but custodial torture seems to enjoy unprecedented license in the city. Inflicting violence on helpless suspects has become a common phenomenon and routine police practice of interrogation. A pervasive regime of impunity is the single most important factor for institutionalising widespread use of torture.

The HRF demands that a criminal case be filed against the police personnel responsible for the illegal detention, torture and death of G Tata Rao. The criminal investigation into this case must be taken up by an agency as independent as possible of the local police. Tata Rao’s family must be compensated by the government with an amount of not less than Rs 5 lakh.

We wish to point out that the insertion of section 176 (1-A) through an amendment to the Cr PC in 2005 mandates that all custodial deaths should be enquired into by a judicial magistrate or metropolitan magistrate rather than an executive magistrate. This has come into effect from June 23, 2006 and therefore a judicial magistrate should enquire into Tata Rao’s death rather than an executive magistrate as has usually been the case.

At a broader level, we call upon the Govt to implement the recommendations of the Law Commission of India’s 152nd Report on ‘Custodial Crimes’ and make consequential amendments to Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (insertion of Section 114B) to provide that “in case of custodial death the onus of proving of innocence may be fixed on the police.” The govt must seriously address the issue of torture by law enforcement personnel.

VS Krishna
(HRF State general secretary)


Related Posts

Scroll to Top