On October 26, 2013, 20-year-old Aniket Khicchi went for a movie with his friends. He never returned home, and died the next day in police custody. On Saturday, the four constables responsible for his death were sentenced to seven years imprisonment, the first convictionin the State for a custodial death

Judge Shridhar Bhosale at the City Civil Court and Sessions Court on Saturday convicted four police constables charged with the murder of 20-year-old Aniket Khicchi, the son of vegetable vendor parents, to seven years of rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs 10,000 each.

This is the first successful conviction in a custodial death case in Maharashtra.

Charged with robbery

On October 26, 2013, Aniket Khicchi, was out with his friends to watch a movie when the Vanrai police picked him up and charged him with robbery for allegedly stealing a laptop from Goregaon Sports Complex. A day later, Aniket died, allegedly after being assaulted by police constables. His post mortem report showed head injuries and congestion in the lungs.

The Bombay High Court had recently observed that as per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), Maharashtra recorded 354 custodial deaths from 1999 to 2014, the highest in the country. Of these, 106 were police custody deaths, while the rest (248) happened in judicial custody (jail). Shockingly, in 15 years, only 13 First Information Reports (FIRs) were filed. Only five policemen were charge-sheeted, and there were zero convictions.

Chetan Mali, who appeared for Aniket’s father Sudhir, said, “The trial went on for less than 18 months and it’s the first time there has been a conviction in a custodial death case in Maharashtra.”

Seven years RI

Judge Bhosale convicted police constables Chandrakant Rajaram Kamble, Umesh Gulabrao Gosavi, Sandeep Shankarrao Salunkhe and Kiran Dattatray Pingale. They were charged with murder and criminal conspiracy, but have now been convicted for Section 304 part II (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), Section 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), Section 330 (voluntarily causing hurt to extort confession, or to compel restoration of property) of the Indian Penal Code.

The accused will undergo seven years of rigorous imprisonment and pay a fine of Rs 10,000 each, confirmed Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) Rati Ambolia and her assistant Yasin Katpatia. The court has also directed the accused to pay Rs 50,000 to Aniket’s parents as compensation for their son’s death, under Section 357 of Criminal Procedure Code.

SPP appointed in 2015

The SPP was appointed in 2015, only after Sudhir Khicchi moved the Bombay High Court in July 2014 for the appointment of one.

Bizarre reply

On January 24 last year, the State had filed a bizarre reply before the division bench of Justices Ranjit More and Mridula Bhatka that read, “A custodial death is not so publicly important for an SPP to be appointed, and if the victim’s father wishes to get one appointed by the state, he will have to deposit the fees of the SPP with the state government, and only then will the state appoint one.”

In a similar custodial death case, a division bench of the Bombay HC headed by Justice VM Kanade recently had stressed

that the mindset of the police has to change. “They have to be prosecuted and punished, and not acquitted. Only then will it act as a deterrent,” he had said.