They faced ill-treatment at the hands of policemen for supplying free lunch

In a lesson for policemen who demand regular bribes from shop-keepers, an inspector, now under suspension, and a head constable have been asked to cough up Rs. 2.50 lakh as compensation for violating the rights of five persons running a restaurant.

The five, who included a heart patient, suffered at the hands of the police in 2007 because they refused to supply food free of cost to the personnel of a police station in lieu of regular bribe.

The Acting Chairperson of the State Human Rights Commission, K.Baskaran, has recommended to the State government to pay a compensation of Rs.50,000 to each of the victims within four weeks. After payment, the government may recover Rs.two lakh from the Inspector and Rs.50,000 from the Special Sub-Inspector. The government should also initiate departmental action against the officials.

He observed that the two police personnel had made a shameful demand. They had violated the rights of innocent people who were running a lawful business.

S. Seetharaman (now under suspension), was the Inspector, Maduravoyal police station. V.Thiruvengadam, a head constable in the station then, is now a special sub-inspector at Mangadu, near here.

In their complaint, K.Dharmaraj and four others said they were running a restaurant on EVR Periyar Salai, Maduravoyal here, for more than a decade. After Seetharaman took charge of the Maduravoyal police station, he insisted that the complainants supply breakfast, lunch and dinner free of cost to four police personnel instead of ‘mamool’ (regular bribe.)

Fearing police retribution, they supplied food for some time. However, they stopped doing so subsequently. On March 19, 2007, when Dharmaraj, who was suffering from a heart ailment, and Sethuraman, another complainant, were discussing the restaurant’s renovation, the police officials demanded the documents of the complainants’ vehicles. When they were given to the Inspector, in an act that reminds one of a sequence in the Tamil film Singam, he tore up the documents and asked for them again.

When Mr. Dharmaraj questioned this action, the two were beaten up unmindful of their pleadings. They were dragged to the police station. No medical treatment was given to Mr.Dharmaraj who suffered a head injury. The other three complainants who rushed to the police station were kept in the lock-up. A case was registered against them and they were produced before a Magistrate and remanded in custody.

But the two police personnel denied the allegations. They claimed that during a vehicle check two vehicles were intercepted. The complainants quarrelled with them and assaulted the head constable. Hence, the complainants were arrested. The policemen denied that the complainants were ill-treated.

The Acting Chairperson said that from the evidence, it emerged that a false case had been registered by police. After a full-fledged trial, the Judicial Magistrate, Poonamallee, had acquitted the complainants.

That Mr. Dharmaraj suffered a head injury was corroborated by medical documents. Also, if a person was not able to produce documents relating to a vehicle, the police carrying out the check had no power to seize the vehicle. They could only issue a summons or a notice requiring them to produce the documents. In this case, the police had seized the vehicles.

Also, the police’s version that Mr. Thiruvengadam was on patrol duty and checking vehicles could not be accepted because a head constable could not have led a team of police personnel for vehicular check. Mr.Dharmaraj was not provided medical treatment for nearly four hours.

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