The drama played by a few police officials here by substituting an accused with another person to prevent the real accused from getting photographed by mediapersons and deviate attention, has evoked criticism and put the police in a tight spot.

The incident took place on Saturday evening when a judicial magistrate arrested by the district police on charges of sexual assault, cheating and criminal intimidation was brought to a court here.

As the news of the arrival of the police with the accused in the court spread, photojournalists and reporters of print and visual media thronged the court premises.

To the surprise of the people who saw the accused entering the court room with a dark coloured shirt and plain trousers were stunned to see police personnel bringing out a person wearing light coloured shirt and jeans to the police jeep ‘en route to the judicial custody’.

The face of the ‘accused’ was covered by towel and the policemen were seen trying hard to keep the cloth from falling. Sensing foul play, some mediapersons rushed to the back door of the court only to see the actual accused whisked away by the police personnel.

The accused was still wearing the dark coloured shirt. Mediapersons then followed the van carrying the actual accused to the district headquarters hospital where he was taken for medical check, and the photographs taken there confirmed that the person was indeed the arrested magistrate. But who was then the other person who posed as the accused? Initial reports said it was a policeman.

When asked, a senior Inspector told The Hindu that he could vouch that the person was not a policeman, but someone else.

N. Shanmugasundaram, a social activist, asks why the police want to play this hide and seek game? “In the case of a pickpocket or a person who steals a few hundred rupees, the police show enthusiasm to display the accused person in front of the media. Everyone should be equal before law,” he said.