Tamil Nadu IPS officer Balveer Singh, accused of plucking tooth, gets bail in custodial torture case

Advocates assisting the survivors alleged that the assistant public prosecutor sided with the accused as 14 more policemen also got bail.

ByLaasya Shekhar

Published Dec 15, 2023 | 11:37 PMUpdatedDec 15, 2023 | 11:38 PM

Balveer Singh (left), and one of the victims showing his injury.

A Tamil Nadu court on Friday, 15 December, granted bail to suspended Ambasamudram Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Balveer Singh, IPS, and 14 other police personnel accused of custodial torture.

The legal relief for police personnel accused of such torture — including plucking of teeth — came despite advocates for the victims seeking judicial custody for them.

The Tirunelveli Judicial Magistrate Court – 1 allowed them to go on bail after accepting bonds under Section 88 of the CrPC.

Advocates assisting the torture survivors opposed the court’s move and accused the assistant public prosecutor (APP) of siding with the police personnel. 

The 15 officers were accused of plucking teeth using pliers and crushing the testicles of suspects — including a minor — who were brought to the Ambasamudram, Kallidaikurichi, and Vikramasingapuram police stations for questioning. 

More than 10 men were allegedly subjected to custodial torture.

After the first instance of torture, which allegedly occurred on 10 March, came to light, Singh was placed under suspension. The Tamil Nadu government came under fire for not arresting the IPS officer. 

The cases against the accused persons were initially registered under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, Schedule Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, and Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act. However, the SC/ST (PoA) sections were removed. 

Also read: Another case of custodial death in TN as autopsy confirms injuries 

APP comes under fire

“The accused police personnel appeared before the court for the first time today. While we are arguing that the court should not let the accused go considering the heinous crime they had committed, the APP said that they have surety,” advocate Maharajan, representing the victims, told South First on Friday.

“How did the APP know that they had surety? The defence counsel should have said it, not the APP,” he added.

“Not sending the accused police officers to judicial custody will enable them to tamper with the evidence. There are materials to be recovered — cutting pliers and blood-stained clothes. How can it be done if they are not remanded in judicial custody?” asked Maharajan.

“We will move the high court against the magistrate’s order,” he added.

The police avoided the main entrance while taking the accused to the court. That move, too, invited criticism.

All the 15 accused persons were served charge sheets in the four custodial torture cases and each charge sheet had about 250 pages.

Singh and others appeared before the magistrate around 10.45 am. The court will continue to hear the case on 26 December.

Related: The inside story on how Balveer Singh is being protected

The CB-CID charge sheet

Sources told South First that Tamil Nadu Home Secretary P Amudha, who was also the special inquiry officer in the case, granted the Crime Branch-Criminal Investigation Department (CB-CID) permission to file the charge sheet against the IPS officer.

The approval was granted after consulting Chief Minister MK Stalin, who holds the Home Department portfolio.

Singh, a 2020-batch IPS officer, was accused of plucking the teeth of detainees using a cutting plier and crushing their testicles when he was serving as the ASP in the Ambasamudram sub-division in the Tirunelveli district.

The survivors also alleged that the officer forcibly put basalt stones, used in construction, in their mouths and hit them in the face.

The survivors on 26 March took to social media to detail their ordeal.

Also read: History-sheeter dies hours after Chennai police interrogate him

The suspension

After their videos went viral, Stalin told the Tamil Nadu Assembly on 29 March that he had ordered the authorities to suspend Singh.

A preliminary inquiry was ordered and the Cheranmahadevi sub-divisional magistrate-cum-sub-collector completed the probe and submitted a report to the Tirunelveli district collector on 3 April.

As human rights activists and news outlets reported several discrepancies in the preliminary inquiry, the Tamil Nadu government on 7 April appointed Amudha, who was then the principal secretary in the government (Rural Development), as a special inquiry officer.

On 17 April, the Tirunelveli district police booked the suspended ASP under three sections of the law.

Meanwhile, Amudha submitted her report and recommended an external investigation agency’s probe into the issue.

Since there were allegations levelled against the district police that the survivors were threatened, the case was transferred to the CB-CID on 19 April.

The State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) also took cognizance of the incident and ordered a separate inquiry.

Related: Case involving IPS officer Balveer Singh transferred to CB-CID

Transfer of personnel

Later, seven police personnel — including two inspectors and the then Superintendent of Police P Saravanan — were transferred.

In the first week of May, the CB-CID booked Singh in four separate cases, including under sections of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

The agency summoned the survivors and recorded their statements. They were also subjected to medical examination.

The CCTV footage of the Kallidakurichi, Vikramasingapuram, and Ambasamudram police stations was collected, and the witnesses’ statements were also recorded.

Evidence like blood stains, instruments used to torture the victims, and logbooks of the police stations concerned were also collected.

At the later stage of the investigation, the CB-CID dropped the Atrocities Act provisions from the FIR.

The CB-CID completed its investigation in three months. It sought sanction from the Home Department in August to proceed with the case by filing a charge sheet against the suspended IPS officer.

However, Singh was not arrested in the case and was ordered to remain in Chennai.