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May 12, 2009

Shame For Police

The Supreme Court has confirmed a Madras high court order imposing Rs 4.5 lakh fine on an assistant commissioner and an inspector of police who had harassed and illegally confined four persons, including a woman lecturer, last year. It all started with T Jayanthi questioning the exorbitant maintenance fee demanded by an association at a residential complex in Coimbatore. Water supply was disconnected to her flat and police complaint too was given against her. Jayanthi sought her advocate brother’s help to sort out the matter.

When the advocate and three others, including a driver, went to Coimbatore, they were illegally kept in a lodge under ‘police surveillance’. A habeas corpus petition questioning the unlawful detention was filed in the Madras high court. After perusing hotel records and police submissions, a division bench comprising justice Elipe Dharma Rao and justice S Tamilvanan lambasted police for the illegal detention and ordered Rs 4.5 lakh as compensation. Passing severe strictures against assistant commissioner of Singanallur, Gopalasamy, and inspector of Saravanampatty police station, Charles, the bench also directed the home secretary and the director-general of police to initiate departmental proceedings against the duo for their proven act of infringement of fundamental rights of citizens.


Challenging the division bench order, Charles filed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court. Dismissing the SLP recently, an apex court bench comprising justice S B Sinha and justice Mukundakam Sharma said: “We are not inclined to entertain this SLP, particularly when the departmental proceedings would be initiated in terms of the orders of the High Court...” On February 9, the high court had said: “The police excesses alleged and proved in this case are shocking our conscience...Custodians of law cannot act like destroyers of law...


Police excesses tarnish the image of any civilised nation and encourage the men in khakhi to consider themselves to be above law. It is not a case involving history sheeters or habitual offenders, so as to justify the police action of keeping them under surveillance.” Pointing out that none of the procedures mandated in the Code of Criminal Procedure or various Supreme Court judgments had been followed by the Coimbatore police, the judges held the state vicariously liable for the misdeeds of its officials.

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