Victims unhappy with probe against IPS officer, say they are being pressured to withdraw complaint

Meanwhile, there are allegations that the sub-collector tasked with the inquiry is a friend of the ASP accused of custodial torture.

ByVinodh Arulappan

Published Mar 30, 2023 | 7:32 PM Updated Mar 30, 2023 | 9:01 PM

Victims show gaps in their teeth, the result of custodial torture. (Supplied)

The victims of the alleged custodial torture at the hands of suspended Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Balveer Singh have expressed dissatisfaction over the inquiry conducted by the sub-collector.

Cheranmahadevi Sub Divisional Magistrate-cum-Sub Collector MD Shabbir Alam had been tasked with inquiring into the matter.

Additionally, it appears that the police are trying to sweep the matter under the rug through intimidation.

According to the victims, when the news on the brutality by Balveer Singh came to light, the district police — especially the Special Branch (SB) attached to the Ambasamudram subdivision — tried to bribe them with money to state that the injuries had happened by accident.

They even sought a signature from the victims on a letter that stated that their teeth had broken because they fell down and that the IPS officer had not assaulted them during interrogation.

Related: TN custodial deaths put government, police under scanner

Alleged intimidation tactics

Vedha Narayanan, an auto driver from Vikramasingapuram, told South First that a constable named Bogan approached him on behalf of the ASP and tried to get a signature on a letter stating that his injuries happened when he fell on the way to work.

“I was separated from my wife. The police are saying that they will help reunite my family and also sell my property for ₹2 crore. There won’t be any problem from the police hereafter, they said. They insisted that I do not give any statement against the ASP,” he said.

Another victim, Subash, alleged that he was given money and was pressured not to name the ASP.

“As I did not oblige, they left the place. During the inquiry, I narrated this incident to the sub-collector and gave my statement in writing,” he said.

Subash said that four of his teeth were plucked by the ASP. “I am afraid that my life is under threat. If anything happens to me or my family, the Tirunelveli police should be held responsible,” he said.

On Wednesday, Cheranmahadevi Sub Divisional Magistrate-cum-Sub Collector MD Shabbir Alam recorded the statements from the victims, where Surya, who earlier alleged that he was tortured by Balveer Singh, turned hostile.

He reportedly gave a written statement to the sub-collector that his teeth broke when he fell down on the floor.

After the enquiry, the revenue department officials took away Surya in their government vehicle, not allowing him to speak to reporters.

Chellappa, the victim who initially shed light on the brutality of the torture, alleged that most of the victims were either given the lure of bribes or threatened.

He told South First: “The victims are being pressured not to give statements against the suspended ASP. Some of them are under the protection of the police.”

He added: “There is no safe environment for the victims who come to give their statements. The office where the inquiry is happening is full of police personnel., How can the victims give their statements freely?”

It was also alleged that Alam and Blaveer Singh were batchmates and close to each other.

Speaking on this, V Maharajan — the advocate representing the victims — asked that if the officers are known to each other and were friends, how could one expect a fair enquiry?

This, even as Alam issued a statement calling for any person subjected to torture by Balveer Singh to come forward and give their statements in writing at his office on all working days.

Related: 44-year-old dies in police custody in Nagapattinam

Shift out probe, urge activists

Several human rights NGOs insisted that the investigation be taken away from the sub-collector.

Human rights activist B Veluchamy told South First: “The investigation should be done by a secretary-level IAS officer or a district-level judicial officer.”

He added: “The investigation should be conducted out of the Tirunelveli district, so that the victims will be free of fear and the inquiry will be fair.”

He further stated that even after the chief minister assured a fair probe, that too in the state Assembly, the police were pressuring the victims in a clear abuse of their power.

National-level human rights organisation People’s Watch Executive Director Henri Tiphagne told South First that the entire SB police of the Ambasamudram division should be transferred for a fair inquiry.

“This incident is nothing less than what happened in Sathankulam, and the DGP should be ashamed of protecting such an insane officer. The high court portfolio judges responsible for Tirunelveli district should immediately inquire into how the victims of such brutal torture — all of whom sustained severe injuries on different parts of their bodies, including injuries to their testicles — were not detected by the judicial magistrate of Cheranmahadevi,” he added.

He also insisted an FIR be filed against the suspended ASP.

“The ADGP (Intelligence) of Tamil Nadu must also conduct an inquiry to find out how such serious violations of human rights their attention even as the Tamil Nadu Assembly was in session,” he said.