Kheda flogging incident was a case of ‘police atrocity’, says Supreme Court

In the 2022 incident, four Gujarat Police officers publicly flogged Muslim men after tying them to a pole in Kheda district for allegedly disrupting a garba event

January 23, 2024 02:13 pm | Updated 11:42 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Screenshot of a viral video that shows a policeman flogging a man for disrupting Garba celebration in Gujarat’s Kheda. Photo: Twitter

Screenshot of a viral video that shows a policeman flogging a man for disrupting Garba celebration in Gujarat’s Kheda. Photo: Twitter

The Supreme Court on Tuesday orally observed the 2022 incident of four Gujarat Police officers publicly flogging Muslim men after tying them to a pole in Kheda district for allegedly disrupting a garba event amounted to an “atrocity”.

“Did they have an authority in law to tie people to a pole and beat them,” Justice B.R. Gavai asked.

“And take videos,” Justice Sandeep Mehta joined in.

The police officers had appealed to the Supreme Court against a Gujarat High Court order in October sentencing them to 14 days’ imprisonment for contempt of court.

D.K. Basu judgment

The conduct of the four officers were found to be in contempt of the directions of the Supreme Court in the D.K. Basu judgment of 1996 against police abuse and custodial violence. The D.K. Basu jverdict had highlighted the deep concern in a free society for the protection of an individual from torture and abuse by the police and other law enforcing officers.

“Police is, no doubt, under a legal duty and has legitimate right to arrest a criminal and to interrogate him during the investigation of an offence but it must be remembered that the law does not permit use of third degree methods or torture of accused in custody during interrogation and investigation with that view to solve the crime,” the D.K. Basu judgment had observed.

Justices Gavai and Sandeep Mehta were not impressed by the argument raised by senior advocate Siddharth Dave, appearing for the police officers, that there was no “willful disobedience” of the verdict by his clients.

The Bench asked whether ignorance of law had become a defence in law now.

“It is the duty of every police officer to know what is the law laid down in D.K. Basu,” Justice Gavai observed.

The senior lawyer challenged the jurisdiction of the High Court to try the men for contempt. He said the officers were already facing criminal prosecution, departmental inquiry and proceedings by the National Human Rights Commission.

The Bench admitted the statutory appeal of the police officers, A.V. Parmar, D.B. Kumavat, Laxmansinh Kanaksinh Dabhi and Rajubhai Dabhi.

It also stayed the contempt action against them in the High Court.

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