Mumbai: The Bombay High Court bench of Justices Shahrukh Kathawalla and Surendra Tawade was scathing against Navi Mumbai police when it was brought to their notice that an advocate arrested in an alleged extortion and kidnapping case was handcuffed and his arrest was close to illegal detention.
"No affidavit would justify or explain handcuffing any person by the police. The law is settled on handcuffing," noted the bench and asked the police force to act responsibly. The bench was dealing with a criminal public interest litigation filed through advocate Subash Jha which highlighted the illegal arrest and detention of advocate Vimal Jha.
Jha was arrested by Navi Mumbai police for allegedly kidnapping his client Navnath Gole, a businessman, and later torturing him and forcing him to transfer some of his properties. Navi Mumbai police claimed that Jha had represented Gole in Ahmednagar sessions court in cheating and forgery case, and had got him bail. Gole’s wife, who was represented by Indira Jaisingh in the Supreme Court, had got bail from the Supreme Court. Gole’s have 13 cases registered against them by DRI, Customs, Economic Offences Wing and GST department.
The Navi Mumbai FIR claimed that Jha had told Gole’s wife that his fee was Rs 70 lakh of which Rs 12 lakh was paid through RTGS while the remaining 58 lakh was paid in cash.
According to Gole, Jha had demanded Rs three crore, and later had allegedly kidnapped him and taken him to a farmhouse, where three unknown persons had assaulted him and was later left somewhere on the road. Jha had then gone to Nashik.
But Jha claimed that he had never asked for such a huge amount and that his total fees was Rs 12 lakh. Jha also claimed that there was another transaction between the parties pertaining to a flat and that he only asked Gole to register the flat and had not forced him to transfer the property.
However, on the very next day of the incident on April 3, Jha was arrested. On Monday, when the matter came up for hearing before Justice Kathawalla's court, advocate Subhash Jha told the bench that the arrest of Jha was illegal. He told the bench that Jha was arrested on April 3 and was produced before the Magistrate court on April 5.
The bench crosschecked this fact from advocate Prashant Pandey, who appeared for Jha, and he reaffirmed it.
Chief public prosecutor Deepak Thakare initially told the judges that Jha was arrested on April 3 and produced before the court for custody on April 5. But when Justice Kathawalla pointed out that this would amount to illegal detention and custody thereafter, Thakare changed his statement and told the court that the advocate was indeed arrested on April 5 after the FIR was lodged and was produced before the court early morning.
Jha then told the bench that the arrested advocate was handcuffed, which is a gross abuse of human rights. "Was he handcuffed?" Justice Kathawalla asked Thakare, who replied in affirmative. "Is he a very grave criminal?" the judge questioned further which received a negative response. At this, Justice Kathawalla said, "Why to handcuff? Are you not aware of the laws?"
Further the bench asked Thakare to submit the CCTV footage of the Kharghar police station from April 3 to April 6. At this, the prosecutor said there aren't any CCTV cameras in the police station and that installation work of these cameras started on May 1.
"How can you make irresponsible statements and mislead this court. You are changing your statements," Justice Kathawalla told Thakare. The bench further said that the matter was quite serious. "This is a very serious matter. We can't take it so lightly," the judges said.
Thakare tried to convince the bench that he was making the submissions on instructions and said would ask the police to file a proper affidavit. The bench then ordered the police to file a detailed affidavit and clarify its stand in the matters.
Meanwhile, Jha told the bench that his client was abused by cops and that he has the videos of the same. He sought to transfer the probe by an independent agency. However, the request was opposed. At this, Justice Kathawalla said, "If the state police force is going to behave in this fashion... Don't compel us to transfer the probe to CBI or any other agency."
The matter would be heard next on Wednesday.