The Delhi High Court has said that no one should have to repeat the tragic words of George Perry Floyd Jr. — ‘I can’t breathe’ — while initiating a fresh inquiry into the alleged beating and assault of two men in the precincts of a police station.
Justice Najmi Waziri made the remarks while hearing a plea by two men, who claimed that they had been illegally detained and beaten up by officials of Police Post Turkman Gate police station, Chandni Mahal, seeking a fresh preliminary inquiry by a senior police officer into the incident.
Justice Waziri perused various photographs which showed the two men being assaulted by persons in police uniform on January 25.
“The said assault is questionable, as the law does not permit people to be beaten up in police custody even during interrogation,” Justice Waziri said, adding, “punishment for an assault or a criminal act is to be determined by a court of law. The police cannot be a judge in its own cause”.
“The law does not permit people to be beaten up in police custody or during interrogation. The assault by the police on the petitioner and his associate is questionable,” the judge said.
Justice Waziri said, “One can never be too vigilant about the rights of citizens being violated or any callousness or overreaction by law enforcers, which may lead to an unfortunate incident or tragedy. Let no one have to repeat the tragic last words of George Perry Floyd Jr.: ‘I can’t breathe’.”
The Delhi Government’s counsel argued that there was an immediately preceding occurrence, which led to the strict action being taken against the two petitioners. The counsel showed a video recording about a fracas right outside the police station, between private parties, who had moments earlier left the police station.
While an initial inquiry was conducted by the inspector (vigilance) and the matter had been closed, the two persons said that they were neither called for any inquiry nor were the injuries, sustained by them as a result of the said assault, examined or considered.
“To inspire confidence in an inquiry, fairness of the procedure adopted and examination of the substantive issues must be apparent. This fundamental principle has not been observed in the so-called ‘inquiry report’. Therefore, it is of no consequence,” the High Court said, while ordering a fresh inquiry by the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Vigilance).
The High Court said that a fresh inquiry was warranted because the photographs and the video showed that the two men being assaulted repeatedly by a posse of policemen who were in uniform and in civilian attire.
“The violent pushing, punching and elbow strikes, start the moment they enter the precincts of the police station. The two civilians were not violent when they walked into the said precincts.”
“They possibly could not because they were surrounded and held by policemen….For the physical assault and beating given to the private individuals, there appears no immediate provocation, perhaps it was because of some pique of the policemen,” the High Court said.