A special investigation team of Mumbai Police on Wednesday arrested four constables for allegedly thrashing a 20-year-old youth to death over alleged violation of lockdown guidelines on March 29.

The accused constables, identified as Santosh Desai, Ankush Palve, Digambar Chauhan and Ananda Gaikwad, then serving at the Juhu Police Station, allegedly brutally assaulted Raju Velu with sticks, leading to his death. Later, they informed the victim’s family that he was lynched by a mob on suspicion of robbery.

The Bombay High Court on August 17, while hearing a plea accusing the police of committing excesses during the lockdown, directed the Mumbai Police Commissioner to form an SIT to probe the death of Velu.

Subsequently, the four accused constables were placed under suspension and investigations were initiated against them, leading to their arrests on Wednesday. They have been booked for murder. A local court issued an order on Thursday to remand them in police custody till September 15, according to a report by The Indian Express.

According to the police, the constables were on patrolling duty on March 29 when they spotted Velu roaming in the area. In order to enforce lockdown, they assaulted him with batons, causing his death. Later, they attempted to pass off the crime as mob lynching, saying that “They had said that Velu had gone to commit a theft, was caught red-handed and then brutally assaulted by the local residents,” the IE report quoted a police officer as saying. Also, they discouraged his family from taking the body to the hospital. Later, police registered a case against eight unidentified people for committing the crime and also picked up several Nehru Nagar slum residents for interrogation.

The story of the cops unravelled after Bahraiz Irani, a city-based lawyer, moved the Bombay HC, accusing police of excesses during the lockdown period. Irani, in her plea, mentioned Velu’s death and a few other instances.

With regards to Velu’s death, Irani told the court that CCTV footage shows cops thrashing him and there is no proof of mob lynching. The HC ordered the Mumbai Police Commissioner to investigate the matter. An SIT, formed under the directions of the HC, conducted the investigation and arrested the accused constables.

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