Friday, 3 April 2015 – 5:45am IST | Place: Bastar (Chattisgarh) | Agency: dna | From the print edition
Till 2012, 95.7 per cent of the criminal cases ended in acquittal in Chhattisgarh
  • Uday Mohite  dna

Chhattisgarh police, hogging limelight for controversial surrenders of alleged lower-rung Maoist cadre, have been keeping tribals behind bars framing them under the Arms Act and IPC Section 307 (attempt to murder). Their crime: carrying bada bartan (a big cooking utensil), umbrella, traditional bow and arrow, kitchen knife.. Some of these tribals have spent several years in jail, though their names never figured in the chargesheets or the witnesses never identified them as accused.

These bizarre facts emerged during dna’s detailed analysis of the police documents of various cases, submitted in the courts of Chhattisgarh. The state police, it was found, have left a long trail of faulty and disastrous investigations, resulting in humongous injustices, especially in Bastar division.

For example, in one of the cases registered in Jagurgunda police station of Sukhma district in 2012, police named 19 people as accused in the FIR and arrested nine of them. What police recovered from most of them are bows and arrows. Property seizure memo of accused number eight, 20-year-old Salvam Sento of Dorla tribe, shows recovery of a ‘bada bartan khana banane ka’. This case has been registered under sections of attempt to murder, Arms Act, Explosives Act, rioting, armed with deadly weapons and other sections of the state government.

Similar recoveries have been shown in various cases registered against the people from Bijapur and Dantewada.

In another case, two tribals of Bijapur, Midium Lachu and Punem Bhima were arrested by the police in 2008 and sent to jail, but their names never got mentioned in chargesheets. The only court document mentioning their name was the arrest memo. The case has been registered under sections of armed rioting, attempt to murder and arms Act. However, no police witness in the case has mentioned their name in their statements. The case is still going on and the duo is currently out on bail after sending six years in jail. Lachu lost all his family members except his sister while he was in jail. A third accused in the same case, Ifra Narayan, was arrested by the police after fierce encounter with Maoists. Police claim he was carrying a bow and arrow.

According to an independent study carried out by Jagdalpur legal Aid Group, till 2012, 95.7 per cent of the criminal cases ended in acquittal in Chhattisgarh, compared to the national average of 38.5 per cent. And the cases are taking longer time to be decided as well. Undertrials are spending more time in jails. In 2012, only 60 per cent of the cases were decided in less than two years, while a significant number of cases were decided after six years.

Thus Chhattisgarh jails remain mostly overcrowded. In 2012, 14,780 inmates were lodged in Chhattisgarh jails meant for just 5,850 prisoners. The overcrowding was 253 per cent compared to national average of 112 per cent.

Another case reflecting lacunae in police investigations is of a tribal Bhima Kadati, 19, who was made accused in around 12 cases, including two train derailment cases of 2010. However, police failed to prove the charges. Kadati died in custody allegedly due to medical negligence, before court acquitted him in all the cases.

Similarly, another young tribal woman, Kawasi Hidme, was arrested in 2008 and implicated in a case of killing of 23 security personnel. However, her name was put in the long list of 50 accused in the FIR, many months after her arrest. But, none of the eyewitnesses could identify her in the court. Her case is still going on in the court.

When dna contacted Inspector general of police S R Kaluri for his version on the story, he refused to meet. He dropped the call saying, “New Delhi’s media is pro-Maoist; I don’t want to talk to or meet you people. Please let me do my work.”