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Varapuzha custodial death: Alibi flops; A V George suspended


Published on: May 11, 2018 | Updated on: May 11, 2018

A.V. George

Kochi: Former Ernakulam Rural Superintendent A.V. George was placed under suspension on Friday evening and a departmental inquiry ordered against him in the Varapuzha custodial death case after the Special Investigation Team (SIT) submitted a report to the state police chief saying the officer had  committed several "lapses" in the initial investigation. The action was taken after Director-General of Police Loknath Behra recommended suspension of the accused officer based on the SIT findings and the government accepted  the same.

"The chief minister’s office has approved the recommendation and ordered a departmental inquiry based on the findings of the SIT," sources said. The SIT pointed out in the report that the very formation of the special squad,  Rural Tiger Force,  was against laid-down norms, that the squad members were illegally involved in criminal cases and that the personnel were provided with good service entries lavishly. It further said that the former SP had deployed the three arrested RTF personnel to take into custody the accused in the house attack case  without the knowledge of the local police. It was the RTF personnel who held S.R. Sreejith from his  house on the night of April 6  and allegedly assaulted him in custody before handing him over to the Varapuzha police.     

Later it was revealed that Sreejith was wrongly arrested mistaking him for another Sreejith alias Thulasidas who later surrendered before the court in connection with the house attack case.  The Crime Branch also found in its probe that George had attempted to "protect" the arrested RTF personnel. It was with his knowledge that a section of officers attempted to manipulate the documents so as to establish that Sreejith’s was not a case of mistaken identity and that the youth was taken into custody since his name had figured in the complaint in the house attack case. The report pointed out that the officer had threatened a few police personnel not to reveal the manipulations. Meanwhile, a separate inquiry by the High Court registrar found that the former SP had misled the North Paravur magistrate and failed to produce the youth before him on April 7.

So far, five police officers,  including former CI Crispin Sam and former Varapuzha SI G.S. Deepak,  were arrested in the case.  The other accused   were members of the RTF. A few days ago, four more police officers who were on duty at Varapuzha police station were arraigned as accused. On Wednesday, the SIT headed by IG S. Sreejith interrogated George, who was  transferred to the Police Academy last month.  

Police officials suffer another setback
The police officials accused of causing the death of S.R. Sreejith in custody suffered another setback with the High Court registrar (vigilance) rejecting a complaint by the police that the Paravur judicial first class magistrate had  erred  by refusing to consider the remand petition of the  arrested persons,  including Sreejith.  

The report submitted by the vigilance registrar, after examining the documents concerned and conducting investigations, said that the complaint by the police did  not have  any substance. The probe by the vigilance registrar found that the police made only a telephonic inquiry with the magistrate about presenting the accused. If the magistrate concerned had expressed his inability to attend the case,  the police could have approached the next magistrate for the purpose, the report said.

The report also pointed out that the police raised the issue of the lapses on the part of the magistrate only after the death of Sreejith in the hospital. The complaint about the magistrate was raised on April 11, two days after the death of the victim, the report pointed out.      Former Erankulam rural SP A.V. George has submitted a complaint to Erankulam Chief Judicial Magistrate stating that M. Smitha, the Paravur judicial first class magistrate, had declined permission to present Sreejith at her residence on the night of April 7 despite police seeking permission for it. A copy of the complaint was also submitted to the subordinate registrar in the High Court having the charges of lower courts.

The chief judicial magistrate sought an explanation from the judicial magistrate and a report with the explanation was submitted to the committee of senior judges in the HC. The committee then asked the vigilance registrar to conduct a probe into the matter. According to the complaint by George if the magistrate had  given permission for presenting the accused on April 7 night,  Sreejith could have conveyed the fact that he was tortured in custody and sought medical assistance.