Zeeshan Malik's death in police custody: Fact finding team points at irregularities, torture

There were multiple injury marks on Zeeshan Malik’s body that were 4-5 days old, revealed fact-finding report on his death at Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital soon after he was brought from Tihar Jail

Zeeshan Malik's death in police custody: Fact finding team points at irregularities, torture

NH Web Desk

There were multiple injury marks on 19-year-old Zeeshan Malik’s body that were four to five days old, revealed a fact-finding report on the death of the teenager at Deen Dayal Upadhayay Hospital soon after he was brought from the Tihar Jail.

According to media reports, Malik was lodged in Tihar jail since November for allegedly stealing cigarette packets. A resident of JJ Colony, a slum cluster in East Guru Angad Nagar in Preet Vihar, Malik was taken into custody by Preet Vihar police for his alleged involvement in the theft. He used to work as a car mechanic near his home. Malik is survived by his father (45), mother (41), two brothers and three sisters. Two of Zeeshan’s siblings are handicapped.

An FIR was registered against Zeeshan on November 19, 2021, under Section 154 of the CrPC. A case was slapped on Malik under sections 457 (Trespass or house-breaking by night in order to commit offence punishable with imprisonment up to five years) and 380 (theft in dwelling, house with provision of imprisonment extending up to 7 years) of the IPC. The FIR was filed on the complaint made by one Anil Chaurasia, who makes a living by selling cigarettes, bottled water and snacks near to Malik’s residence.

The fact-finding team noted that Sections 457 and 380 were slapped on Malik for the ‘grand’ theft of stealing cigarette packets from a shop. Crimes committed under these sections are non-bailable.

Malik was pronounced dead at DDU hospital on February 14, 2022. The police authorities say Malik died due to illness, but the family cited bruise marks and broken bones on Malik’s body as proof of custodial murder in Tihar Jail.

On February 17, 2022, the family was handed over the body after the postmortem. Back at home, as ablution was being performed on the body before burial, the family members said they saw that Malik’s bones had been broken at several places, including ribs and elbows etc. Before the burial the family took pictures of the body to have a record of the injuries.

When the fact-finding team of Janhastakshep enquired whether the statutory guidelines regarding ‘Standard Operating Procedure’ (SOP) issued by NHRC have been followed in the case of custodial death of Malik, it raised more questions than answers.

When the Janhastakshep team met the Director General of Prison Services, Sandeep Goyal, he claimed he did not have any knowledge regarding the matter and directed them to speak with Hukum Chand, the superintendent of Central Jail 5 (where Malik had been lodged). Chand refused to speak to the team.

When the team approached the DG’s office again on February 22, 2022, they were directed to Zorawar Singh, the law officer of the jail. When the team asked Singh if an inquest had been instituted into Malik’s death, he evaded the question. Instead, he replied that Malik was a drug addict, and he suffered from some medical condition which led to lowering of platelet count in his blood. As a result of this, he had profuse internal bleeding in the body leading to his death.

However, when he was informed that one of the members of the Janhastakshep inquiry team, Vikas Bajpai, was a doctor, he changed his response and stated that what he had said was just his opinion, and that the conclusion reached through an inquest could be very different. It was pointed to Singh that there were injury marks all over Malik’s body, the type of bleeding, as evident from the photographs, and that the family members had noticed fractures in several bones of the victim’s body.

When he was again asked if an inquest had actually been instituted, Zorawar Singh responded that this would be done as per the standing instructions. Soon after he left the conversation stating that he would enquire about the incident and get back with more details. But, the team did not hear back from him at all.

The fact-finding team asserted that based on their conversation with the jail authorities, it appeared as though no inquest into the circumstances of Zeeshan’s death had been initiated by them even one week later.

Meanwhile, a senior doctor at DDU hospital who was in the know of things regarding the post-mortem of Malik, stated that there were multiple injury marks on his body that were four-to-five days old. At the time of writing the report, the forensic report on the internal body organs was still awaited.

The fact-finding report stated that the conduct of the jail authorities in this entire episode bordered on criminality, as indeed it has in many other cases of deaths in judicial custody. According to news reports, there have been numerous reports where in the statutory guidelines laid down by NHRC were being flagrantly violated in cases of deaths in police or judicial custody.

The fact-finding team demanded an inquest be ordered immediately under the supervision of NHRC and the jail superintendent of Central Jail 5 at Tihar should be immediately suspended for having failed to uphold the safety of the prisoners under his watch.

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Published: 23 Feb 2022, 7:00 PM