The Bombay High Court has come down heavily on the Maharashtra government and the CBI over their “failure” to implement a list of orders passed by several benches of the court in the 2014 case of sexual assault and alleged custodial death of Agnelo Valdaris.
In an order passed earlier this month, a bench of Justices B P Dharmadhikari and Sarang Kotwal noted that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the state and police authorities were yet to implement the court’s directions while conducting a further probe into the case, and were also yet to implement a slew of security measures at police stations, including installation of CCTV cameras.
The bench, accordingly, directed the government, the CBI and the city police to file their respective affidavits explaining “why action should not be taken against them” for their failure to implement the previous orders of the high court in the case.
Valdaris, who was 25-years-old at the time of his death, had been arrested on April 15, 2014 by the Government Railway Police in Wadala over charges of theft.
A subsequent probe by the CBI revealed that three others, including a minor, had been arrested along with Valdaris, and over the next three days in custody, all four were allegedly stripped, tortured, beaten up and forced to perform sexual acts with each other.
While Valdaris died on April 18 that year, the remaining three were granted bail subsequently. The Wadala police claimed that Valdaris had fled from custody and was killed by a passing train.
Following a litigation initiated in the Bombay High Court by Valdaris’ father Leonard, the CBI took over the probe and in 2016, it booked seven policemen and one woman official from the Wadala railway police station on charges of criminal conspiracy and causing grievous hurt.
In March 2017, the CBI added the charge of sexual assault under section 377 against the eight police personnel booked in the case.
The hearings had prompted the high court to direct further probe into the case to check if the charge of murder could be invoked against the accused.
The HC had also directed the state and the police to implement a slew of measures, including installation of CCTV cameras inside police stations, keeping in mind the safety of those in police custody.
On a previous hearing, another bench of the court had noted that it could not accept the CBI’s statement that Valdaris’ death was accidental in nature, and directed the agency to conduct further probe.
In December last year, the CBI submitted that the statements of witnesses had led it to believe that the charge of murder under section 302 of the IPC could not be invoked against the accused.
The submission, however, was disputed by Leonard’s lawyer Yug Chaudhary.
The court had at the time directed the CBI to grant access to the said statements to Chaudhary to help him make his arguments.
However, in the last hearing earlier this month, Chaudhary informed the bench that he was yet to receive the copies of the said statements.
The state also informed the court that it was yet to install CCTV cameras within the premises of all police stations across the city.
At this, the bench sought an explanation from the authorities for their inaction and warned that if they failed to file their affidavits by the first week of January 2019, their senior representative will have to remain present in court.
“We direct the respondents through their Heads of Department to file a responsible affidavit explaining why suitable action for not implementing court order should not be initiated against them,” it added.