The State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has ordered the Tamil Nadu government to pay a compensation of ₹2 lakh to the father of Canada-based Tamil student Lois Sophia, who was arrested for allegedly raising slogans against Prime Minister Narendra Modi government and picking up a heated argument with the then Tamil Nadu BJP president Tamilisai Soundararajan on a Chennai–Thoothukludi flight three-and-a-half years ago..
When Ms. Lois Sophia, doing her postgraduation in Mathematics in Canada, came to India for vacation in September 2018, her father A.A. Samy, a surgeon, and his wife accompanied her from Chennai to Thoothukudi on the flight in which Dr. Tamilisai [now Governor of Telangana and Lt. Governor of Puducherry] was also travelling.
On seeing the BJP leader, Ms. Sophia allegedly got up from her seat and raised slogans against the BJP government at the Centre. On reaching the Thoothukudi airport, BJP cadres reportedly threatened her to apologise to Dr. Tamilisai and prevented her parents also from leaving the airport.
Taken to police station
After Inspector of Police of the Thoothukudi airport Nithya intervened and calmed down the BJP cadres, Inspector of Police, Pudukottai, R. Thirumalai, whisked Ms. Sophia away to the Pudukottai police station while asking Dr. Samy to wait outside the station even as she was questioned by the police officer for seven hours till 1.30 p.m. on that day.
In a petition submitted to the State Human Rights Commission, Dr. Samy alleged that Mr. Thirumalai, A.K. Latha, Sub-Inspector of Police, Pudukottai; V. Ponramu, ADSP, Thoothukudi; R. Prakash, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), Thoothukudi Town sub-division; J. Annathaai, then Inspector of Police, Pudukottai; G. Baskaran, Inspector, SB-CID, and S. Nambirajan, Sub-Inspector, Special Branch, Thoothukudi “tortured” his daughter by questioning and asked her to sign on some papers.
After being produced before the Third Judicial Magistrate, she was remanded in judicial custody. Since Ms. Sophia developed abdominal pain, she was admitted to the Thoothukudi Government Medical College Hospital.
Dr. Samy approached the SHRC seeking action against the police, “since the action by the police officials caused mental agony to his daughter after foisting fake case against her and was subsequently remanded in judicial custody in contrary to the directives of the Supreme Court.”
Police deny charges
The police officials, who stoutly denied the charges of Dr. Samy, said Ms. Sophia had caused nuisance in a high security place like airport and had shouted at a co-passenger (Dr. Tamilisai) in violation of her rights. Based on the complaint from Thoothukudi Airport Director N. Subramanian, she was arrested after due investigation by the police.
Her detention was informed to her and her relatives following the guidelines of the Supreme Court, Mr. Thirumalai said.
Mr. Ponramu and Mr. Prakash said they had gone to the Pudukottai police station based on the instructions from the Superintendent of Police as the BJP supporters were gathering there to unleash attack on Ms. Sophia and denied that they had harassed her.
Mrs. Annathai, Mr. Baskaran and Nambirajan too denied the charges against them saying that they were not present in the Pudukottai police station as being charged by Dr. Samy.
SHRC member D. Jayachandran opined that the arrest of Ms. Sophia was not at all essential for the charges levelled against her and held that Mr. Thirumalai, without following the procedure laid down by the Supreme Court, had arrested Ms. Sophia. Since her fundamental right had been violated by the police action, ₹2 lakh should be given to Dr. Samy — ₹50,000 by Mr. Thirumalai and ₹25,000 each by the remaining six respondents, besides initiating disciplinary action against them.
After paying the compensation to Dr. Samy within a month, the Tamil Nadu government should recover the amount from all seven respondents.
Moreover, the Director General of Police should instruct the police not to arrest anyone mechanically where the offence is punishable with the imprisonment for a term less than seven years or which may extend up to seven years with or without fine, Mr. Jayachandran noted.
Sophia thanks SHRC
Thanking the SHRC following the verdict, Ms. Sophia said she was unlawfully detained by the police, subjected to intimidation. From the beginning the police flouted the law and showed scant regard for the rules of arrest laid down by the Supreme Court.
“The First Information Report not only contains easily provable lies, but the police also tampered with it to include a non-bailable Section. I hope this judgment will go a small way towards discouraging police officers from bowing to political pressure and abandoning the process of law,” Ms. Sophia said.