EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: ASA 20/12/93
UA 69/93 Death in custody 12 March 1993
INDIA: Mr Satyavan, 35, truck driver
Amnesty International is concerned that Mr Satyavan from Jharoda Kalan village died allegedly
of torture in Najafgarh police station in Delhi on 2 March 1993. The organization is further
concerned that Satyavan's death, the first in custody recorded by Amnesty International
in Delhi for over a year following some 45 deaths recorded there during the previous seven
years, is a retrograde step in the protection of human rights in India.
Satyavan, a father of five children and an alleged drug addict, had first been arrested
on 25 February 1993 only to be released two days later apparently after his relatives had
paid a large sum of money to the police. Villagers allege that when his relatives failed
to meet further demands for more money from the police, he was re-arrested at 1 pm on 2
March by the Station House Officer. He was reportedly beaten in custody until he died
later that afternoon, at about 3.30 pm.
The police control got a phone call at 6.15 pm on 2 March saying that Satyavan's body had
been carried into the village by two of his friends, Balraj alias Billoo and Ishwar Singh,
who had been arrested with him. According to a senior police officer they had told him
that they had all been beaten in the police station until Satyavan collapsed. They were
then apparently ordered to take Satyavan's body back to the village. His death only came
to the attention of the media because some seven hundred people protested in the village,
demanding immediate action against the police.
The Station House Officer has subsequently been transferred and the head constable suspended.
In addition to the inquest proceedings into the allegations by the Sub-Divisional Magistrate,
the city's police's vigilance branch has also reportedly begun an inquiry. A case of culpable
homicide not amounting to murder has been registered and handed over to the crime branch.
An editorial in the Indian Express, 5 March 1993, comments that "Satyavan's death points
to a high degree of lawlessness in police stations and the virtual absence of supervision
by higher authorities" and that "the delay in bringing charges of murder or rape against
errant policemen contributes to a commonplace attitude in police stations that they are
accountable to no one." The Hindustan Times of 4 March 1993 comments that "justice demands
a proper enquiry into the incident and deterrent punishment to those who have brought a
bad name to the police." Satyavan's death closely follows a statement made on 16 February
1993 by Prime Minister Mr P.V. Narasimha Rao, in the presence of senior police officials
in which he urged the police not to commit excesses against those in custody.
Amnesty International has documented the cases of 484 people who have died in the custody
of the police or security forces throughout India between January 1985 and November 1992
allegedly of torture, although the actual number of such cases is thought to be considerable