Delhi High Court upholds conviction of Uttar Pradesh Police officers in custodial death case; refuses to accept suicide theory

A 26-year-old youth named Sonu died in police custody in 2006, a day after he was picked up by the police officials.

The Delhi High Court on Monday upheld a trial court order sentencing five Uttar Pradesh Police officers to ten years of imprisonment for the custodial death of a 26-year-old youth named Sonu.

A Division Bench of Justices Mukta Gupta and Anish Dayal also upheld the order sentencing an inspector to three years of imprisonment for kidnapping Sonu in the same case.

The Court rejected the police officers’ assertions that the deceased had died of suicide. It found that there were serious discrepancies in the records and that the general diary entries were fabricated and manipulated.

Taking note of the injuries on Sonu’s body, the Court found it hard to believe that he committed suicide and “then sustained such injuries during the process of being saved by trained police personnel.”

“These discrepancies are glaring and can only underscore the case of the prosecution that all police personnel present at that night belonging to PS Sector-20 (Noida) were somehow stretching themselves hard to disclaim their presence at the time post lodging of Sonu by the accused police team. It is, therefore, completely clear that conduct of all these police officials refusing to acknowledge their presence after the lodging of Sonu or around that time, leads to a conclusion that the situation in the PS at that time was not fine,” the order stated.

The Court went on to hold,

“What had happened to the victim after his arrest/abduction by the accused persons was within the special knowledge of the accused persons and having not provided believable explanation, the (trial) court was right in drawing the presumption that the police was responsible for his abduction, illegal detention and death.”

Sonu was picked up by policemen in civil dress on September 1, 2006 and brought to Police Chowki Nithari, Sector 31 Noida in their private vehicle.

On September 2, Sonu was lodged in the locker of Police Station Sector 20, Noida at 3:25 AM. It was stated that Sonu was wanted for an investigation in a robbery case.

An investigation concluded that the police commited atrocities on Sonu and that he committed suicide due to physical and mental stress at around 5:30 AM.

The case was transferred from Gautam Budh Nagar to Delhi on the orders of the Supreme Court, which said that free and fair trial would not be possible in the State of Uttar Pradesh since the accused were members of the Uttar Pradesh Police.

On March 14, 2019, sub-inspectors Hindveer Singh and Mahesh Mishra, along with constables Pradeep Kumar, Pushpender Kumar and Haripal Singh, were sentenced to ten years of imprisonment by a trial court, after being convicted under Section 304 (causing death by negligence) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), along with other sections.

Inspector Kunwar Pal Singh was sentenced to three years of imprisonment. The Court acquitted sub-inspector Vinod Kuma Pandey due to lack of evidence.

After considering the case and the evidence on record, the High Court has now upheld the trial court’s judgement.

It also rejected a plea by Sonu’s father to convert the convictions from one under Section 304 (death by negligence) to one under Section 302 (murder) of the IPC.

“The said sequence of events and evidence on record suggest that the deceased was subjected to custodial torture with the knowledge that it was likely to cause death of the deceased but without any intention to cause the death. Therefore, the act of causing bodily injury, as is likely to cause death, would make the accused guilty of offence punishable under Section 304 IPC Part I and liable for a sentence for RI 10 years,” the Court concluded.


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