Mumbai: Observing that the incident "smacks of police high-handedness," "insensitivity," and "reveals their lack of knowledge of the legal provisions," the Bombay High Court has directed the state to pay compensation of Rs 2 lakh to a music teacher who was illegally detained by Tardeo police and kept in Saat Rasta Lockup in July this year.
A division bench of Justices Revati Motite-Dere and Gauri Godse on Friday directed that the compensation amount be recovered, after a "full-fledged inquiry," from the salary of the person/persons found responsible for the illegal detention of the music teacher and for the actions alleged in the lockup.
Petition filed by teacher's wife
The HC was hearing a habeas corpus (produce the person in court) petition filed by the teacher's wife seeking the release of her husband, "N," alleging that he was in illegal detention.
In June, a zero FIR was registered by the Malad police station based on a complaint by a student alleging sexual harassment. The FIR was subsequently transferred to Tardeo police. The petition claimed that N cooperated with the investigation and visited the police station several times.
Learning on July 17 that he was likely to be arrested, his advocate went to the police station to furnish his bail. However, he was arrested at 9:30 pm. He was released the subsequent day after the wife filed a petition before the HC.
Judges: 'Not everyone has the "means, the capacity, and the wherewithal to approach the Court..'
Displeased with the police action, the judges noted that N would have been detained for a longer period had it not been for the plea before the HC. Not everyone has the "means, the capacity, and the wherewithal to approach the Court and to even take cudgels with the police," the judges said.
Noting that courts are not "powerless or helpless," the judges said they were awarding compensation "not only for the violation of the law but also for the violation of his fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution, i.e., the right to live with dignity."
"The grave injustice caused to the petitioner's husband, Nitin, no doubt, cannot be compensated by money alone; however, granting some compensation and directing some action to be taken against the errant officers would offer some solace/balm to the wounds that the petitioner's husband and his family have suffered," the judges said.
Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees the right to life and liberty, and this right includes the right to live a dignified life. The police have, on the face of it, violated N's fundamental right to life and liberty.
The right to compensation is palliative for the unlawful acts of instrumentalities that act in the name of public interest and present the powers of the State as a shield, the bench underlined.
It added that the police action had resulted in "unjustified trauma - physical, emotional, and mental" for N.
Unconditional apology tendered by DCP
The court accepted the unconditional apology tendered by DCP, Zone-III, Akbar Pathan, and an assurance that there would be no violation of fundamental rights while arresting the person.
However, the court awarded compensation, noting that "constitutional courts cannot be oblivious to the gross abuse of the law in this case and would fail in our duty if the wrong is not redressed."
The court has also directed that an inquiry be initiated by an officer not below the rank of DGP, and the same be completed within eight weeks.
The judges have directed that the judgment copy be sent to the Director-General of Police of the State and the Mumbai Commissioner of Police so as to enable them to issue appropriate guidelines/directions to police stations regarding the grant of bail in bailable offenses.
The HC has scheduled the matter for a hearing after 12 weeks to record compliance with the payment of compensation and for the presentation of the inquiry report and steps taken for the recovery of the compensation amount, if any, from the erring officer/officers.