Four constables posted at Juhu police station have been suspended for allegedly beating a 22-year-old man to death in March. Victim Raju Velu Devendra was assaulted apparently after he was caught running on rooftops and roaming around in Nehru Nagar during the lockdown, and was suspected to be attempting a robbery.
While the earlier Deputy Commissioner of Police of the zone had said at the time that Devendra was lynched by the public, the Assistant Commissioner of Police admitted in the Bombay High Court last month that he had died due to assault in police custody.
The revelation follows the sordid episode of the custodial killing of a trader and his son by the police in Thoothukudi district of Tamil Nadu over a trivial matter during the lockdown.
The four constables allegedly beat Devendra in an attempt to send out a message as a deterrent about the police’s stern action against those found flouting rules, in their bid to enforce the COVID-19 induced lockdown.
The four cops suspended on Friday have been identified as police naik Santosh Desai, police naik Anand Gaikwad, police constable Digambar Chavan and police constable Ankush Palve.
On the night intervening March 29 and 30, Devendra and his friends had stepped out. While then, Devendra's brother had said that they were going to a relative's place when the police spotted them and chased them. The police had claimed he was lynched by the people and his body was found at Nehru Nagar Chowk.
According to his brother, Devendra was taken to the police station at 2.30 am and around 6 am, the police informed his family that he had been lynched. Following public backlash, the department had ordered an internal inquiry.
Up until the admission in the HC, the Juhu police had stuck to their version of the events, claiming that Devendra was attacked by the public after he was spotted on the rooftop of a house, attempting a robbery.
"While two of his friends had escaped, Devendra fell off the roof and was lynched by the aggravated public. We have eyewitnesses who confirmed this account. He was not killed in police custody," a senior officer had said in March.
After reaching the spot, when police saw Devendra bleeding, a police patrolling van took him to Cooper Hospital where he was declared dead on arrival, the police had claimed. Subsequently, a case was lodged against eight people for murder, unlawful assembly, mob armed with deadly weapon and rioting.
When the matter reached the Bombay High Court, however, the police produced the reports of the internal inquiry and admitted that Devedra’s death was not a case of mob lynching, but custodial death.