The Madras High Court has initiated suo motu contempt of court proceedings against the Director General of Police and nine other police personnel for having reportedly violated the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court in the celebrated DK Basu’s case while arresting an activist lawyer in Tirunelveli in October 2017.
Justice S.M. Subramaniam directed the High Court Registry to issue notice to all the police officials after being convinced with the arguments advanced by petitioners’ counsel M. Radhakrishnan that the Supreme Court itself had clarified that High Courts could initiate contempt if its orders on arrest procedures had been violated.
Since it was civil contempt being initiated for disobedience of court orders, the Registry was directed to list the matter for further hearing before the same judge on December 15. The interim orders were passed on a writ petition filed by the lawyer S. Rajarethinam in 2017 seeking action against the police personnel for their excesses.
However, the lawyer died a couple of years ago and hence his wife and daughter continued to conduct the case. Mr. Radhakrishnan told the court that the police had hatred against the activist lawyer because he was questioning their failure to withdraw all cases against anti-nuclear activists despite specific Supreme Court orders.
A team of policemen picked up the lawyer from his home at Marankulam in Radhapuram Taluk at midnight on October 3, 2017 and the mobile phone of his wife was snatched when she tried to shoot a video. The policemen informed the family that he was being taken to Valliyoor police station but ended up taking him to Radhapuram police station.
He was stripped, beaten up and locked in a dark room before being shifted to Uvari police station. In the meantime, the lawyer’s sister petitioned a judicial magistrate in Valliyoor on October 4 and the court appointed a senior member of the Bar to find out his whereabouts and ascertain if there was any illegal detention.
Only thereafter, the lawyer was produced before the Magistrate for remand at 10 p.m. on October 4. On seeing his physical condition, the Magistrate passed a detailed order stating that the police had failed to follow the procedures and also noted down the injuries besides recording his statement regarding the third degree treatment.
Thereafter, the lawyer was admitted as an in-patient in a government hospital for 24 days. Despite all this, the police department had suspended only five police personnel and not taken any action against the rest of the four police officers, including the then Tirunelveli Superintendent of Police Arun Sakthi Kumar, and hence the lawyer had filed the writ petition.
Mr. Radhakrishnan told the court that the departmental proceedings initiated against the five police personnel too did not proceed further in the last five years and that were reinstated in service after revoking their suspension orders. One of them was also allowed to retire from service despite the departmental proceedings pending against him, he said.
Taking serious note of such submissions, the judge said the police had been armed with special powers and enjoy a special status in society in order to perform their onerous duties and responsibilities. Therefore, any illegality or violation of law by such law enforcing personnel would always be viewed seriously by the courts.