NEW DELHI — Seventeen Indian police officers were convicted today of kidnapping and killing a 22-year-old jobseeker in custody and could face the death penalty.
The New Delhi court where they were convicted will announce their sentences on Monday, said Kanchan Prasad, a spokesman for India’s federal investigating agency. They could be sentenced to death or to life in prison.
The conviction of 17 police officers in a single case is believed to be unprecedented in India.
Prosecutors said Ranbir Singh had gone to the northern Indian city of Dehradun looking for a job when he was arrested by police for allegedly committing a robbery. He died in police custody in 2009.
Judge J.P. Malik also convicted the police officers of entering into a criminal conspiracy to kill Singh. The officers denied the charges against them and can appeal their conviction in a higher court.
The case was shifted to New Delhi from Dehradun, the capital of Uttrakhand state, after the victim’s father, Ravindra Singh, filed a petition in India’s top court arguing that he did not expect justice from the state police as their officers were involved in the crime.
Rights groups often accuse Indian security forces of torturing and killing people in custody to force them to confess.
“Our stand has been vindicated by the trial court. The guilty police officers were booked for murder, kidnapping, criminal conspiracy and destruction of evidence,” Ranjit Sinha, director of the Central Bureau of Investigation, or India’s FBI, told reporters today.