The Madras High Court has deplored the tendency of police personnel, who are employed to enforce the law, themselves breaking the law at times.
This unfortunate tendency is a very serious breach of discipline, which cannot be tolerated at all, the first bench of acting Chief Justice S K Agnihotri and Justice K K Sasidharan said on April 28 last.
The Anti-Corruption Wing of the CBI, Chennai Unit, arrested Sreedharan, sub-inspector attached to the Orleanpet police station in Puducherry, and advocate A Anbalavanan for allegedly being involved in an offence under Section 120-B of the IPC r/w Sec 7 of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The charge against them was that they received a bribe. They were produced before the Principal Sessions Judge-cum-Special Judge, CBI Cases on December 19, 2008. Judge granted bail to the advocate, but denied it to SI.
Agitated policemen assembled in front of the court, and staged a dharna abusing the judge with derogatory and filthy language. They did not even heed the orders of their superior officer to disburse. The agitating policemen lathi-charged the photo journalists who took pictures of the protest and chased them out of the court premises. In the melee, some journalists were injured and their cameras destroyed. Personnel from the Indian reserve battalion, a specialised force constituted for controlling riots, also joined the agitation with the family members of the accused SI and blocked the arterial Pondicherry-Cuddalore Road for hours together.
The judge sent a report to the Madras High Court, which suo motu treated it as a contempt application and initiated contempt proceedings against policeman Ganesan and 91 others. The Puducherry government, on its own, constituted an one-man commission to probe the incident without the knowledge of the High Court.
The bench appointed senior counsel Arvind P Datar as an amicus curie to assist the court on the issue. During the course of the hearing Datar suggested the court take a lenient view as the policemen had suffered a lot on account of their involvement in the incident and this would be a lesson to the entire police force in the UT.
Puducherry Senior government pleader T Murugesan submitted that the government had taken the incident very seriously and registered criminal cases against the policemen. They were denied promotions. This incident will be the first and last. Both Datar and Murugesan pleaded that the court take a lenient view of the matter. The policemen tendered unconditional apologies.
Before pardoning the policemen and closing the contempt petition, which revealed a very disturbing trend in society, the bench issued a stern warning to the policemen. They should be role models to others. In this case, they became a law unto themselves. The SI, who was denied bail, could have moved the High Court. Dharna, sit-in protest and slogan shouting against the judge are all intimidating tactics to exert pressure on the judicial officer, which cannot be countenanced. It is rather astonishing to note that the policemen did not obey the direction given by the head of the police force in the UT to disburse and leave the court complex. It also set aside the order of the government constituting the one-man commission, as it had been done without consulting the High Court.