Innocent techie suffers due to shoddy police work
Ever since I read about the wrongful arrest of 26-year-old Lakshaman K (a techie who works with HCL) the story stuck in my mind. I was horrified and indignant not only because an innocent man had been put behind bars but also because Lakshmana had been denied bail and as a result spent several weeks in inhuman conditions in jail. He was arrested for allegedly defaming Chhatrapati Shivaji (a famous historical figure, a king) on the social networking site Orkut.
This is how the horror unfolded for Lakshman:
In the early hours of August 31, Lakshmana Kailash K was asleep at his home in Bangalore. He was woken up by eight policemen from Pune who came knocking on his door and waved the Information Technology Act, 2000, in his sleepy, terrified face. Get dressed, he was told, we are taking you to Pune for having defamed Shivaji. Lakshmana protested that he didn’t know anyone called Shivaji.
He was charged under Section 295A of the IPC for a “deliberate and malicious act intended to outrage religious feelings, and Section 67 of the IT Act for publishing “lascivious” material.” And he was thrown into the overcrowded Yerwada jail, where he had to spend 50 days with 200 undertrials.
We all know how bad the situation is in jail, where prisoners live in inhuman conditions and do not have access to basic hygiene. Lakshamana relates the horror of having to use the same utensil for eating, drinking and for the toilet. As expected, his health suffered and this is in addition to the mental trauma he went through.
The political angle
The fact that Lakshamana was denied bail stinks of political highhandedness. Shivaji is almost an icon to some political parties and as this article explains, whipping up passions when he is seen to be denigrated in any way can “transalate into electoral gains.” There have been other instances where an ‘insult’ to Shivaji has led to political parties indulging in riots. There was a shocking incident a few years ago when thousands of priceless books inside the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI) were destroyed by a political party because this ‘reason’.
Shameless lack of repentance
For some unfathomable reason, the police did not let Lakshman go even after they found out their ‘mistake’ – they waited for nearly three weeks before releasing him! And when they finally did so, they said, sorry, but so what, we made a mistake!
Airtel was worse. They did say sorry, but horror of horrors, two days after Lakshmana was released Airtel approached him for non-payment of his bill! A man who had lost 12 kilos, was traumatized and had kidney and other health problems due to his 50 days in jail and all because Airtel had provided the police with the wrong IP address!
Why such callousness?
Where the police are concerned, Lakshamana is just another wronged detainee. The police are used to dealing with hundreds of such cases (which usually go unnoticed because victims are poor) and they never have to bother with an apology. Just type in illegal detention India in google and you will know what I mean. But mind you, the police aren’t stupid…they don’t wrongfully arrest a well connected person.
Lakshman is neither well-connected and nor is he poor, but he is an ordinary middle-class guy and for the police, well, I can see why they felt that too much of a fuss was being made. Procedural delays concerning bail orders and release orders is not spectacularly new for the police. So I guess if they said sorry they thought they were doing something great. After all, they had found the real culprits pretty soon! Guess they thought that Lakshmana should be thankful that he was not tortured and a confession extracted!!
Where Airtel is concerned, frankly I have very low expectations of justice from money-making corporations, although I do expect efficiency. Airtel is not very efficient either as one can see.
From our police I have expectations – high expectations. They work for us, the public, and they need to be taken to task for wrongful or illegal detentions. There has to be accountability. But the law does not allow for this.
As for Airtel, they should give Lakshmana health coverage for life and also pay him a huge compensation.
Support from MSHRC
Thankfully, the Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission (MSHRC) is taking up cudgels on Lakshaman’s behalf and has issued notices to the Police. I don’t know whether anything will come out of this though as the police cannot be sued.
Update 14th Jan 08: Lakshamana has sued the Pune Police and Bharti Airtel for Rs 20 crores.