The Delhi High Court on Monday said incidents of police brutality violate citizens’ rights and referred to the killing of African-American man George Floyd in the United States in May 2020, reported Live Law.

“Let no one have to repeat the tragic last words like George Perry Flyod, Jr – ‘I can’t breathe’,” said Justice Najmi Waziri while ordering an inquiry into the beating of two persons by Delhi Police officers in January.

On May 25 last year, four US police officials detained Floyd after he had allegedly used a counterfeit bill at a store in Minnesota. One of them, Derek Chauvin, kneeled on Floyd’s neck even as he pleaded for help and gasped for air. Floyd was unarmed.

A widely shared video showed Chauvin knelt on him for nearly nine minutes. “My neck hurts,” Floyd had said. “Everything hurts. I need some water or something, please. Please? I can’t breathe officer.”

He died on the spot. An autopsy commissioned for Floyd’s family found that he died of asphyxiation due to neck and back compression.

Floyd’s death had sparked widespread protests across cities in the US and around the world against police brutality.

On Monday, the Delhi High Court was hearing a petition by Mohd Areeb Umar and Umair Siddiqui, who alleged that they were mercilessly beaten by Delhi Police personnel on January 25 and that their complaint against police excesses led to no action. The petitioners told the court that they were neither called nor heard in any inquiry.

The High Court stated that the law does not permit the police to beat up people in custody even during interrogation.

“The assault by the police on the petitioner and his associate is questionable,” said Justice Waziri. “One can never be too vigilant about the rights of citizens being violated or any callousness or over-reaction by law-enforcers which may lead to an unfortunate incident or tragedy.”

During a hearing on October 27, the police said they had acted only to break up a melee between the private parties outside the police station.

Justice Waziri on Monday rejected the submission made by the police. The court said an initial inquiry into the alleged police brutality was conducted by the inspector of the vigilance department but the matter has been closed.

“To inspire confidence in an inquiry, fairness of the procedure adopted and examination of the substantive issues must be apparent,” said Justice Waziri, according to The Indian Express. “This fundamental principle has not been observed in the so-called ‘inquiry report’. Therefore, it is of no consequence.”

The court ordered the deputy commissioner of police (vigilance) to conduct a fresh inquiry and hear the submissions of the two men within four weeks. It added that photographs and a video show the two men being assaulted “by a posse of policemen who are in uniform and in civilian attire”.

The court said: “For the physical assault and beating given to the private individuals, there appears no immediate provocation, perhaps it was because of some pique of the policemen.”

CJI’s comments

In October, Chief Justice of India NV Ramana had said that he has lot of reservations about the behaviour of police officers in the country. The chief justice spoke of “atrocities” committed by police officers and bureaucrats but did not specify any particular incident.

“We are very disturbed by what the bureaucracy, particularly police officers, are doing,” he had said. “I was in favour of forming standing committees led by chief justices of High Courts to look into complaints of atrocities committed by bureaucrats, especially police officers, in this country.”

In August, Ramana had expressed concern about incidents of human rights violations in police stations. “The threat to human rights and bodily integrity are the highest in police stations,” he had said.

On August 3, the government had told Parliament that across the country 348 people had died in police custody in the last three years.