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'A Lawyer Is Behind Bars; Serious Matter' : Bombay High Court Raps Police Over Inconsistent Answers On Lawyer's Arrest

Sharmeen Hakim
18 May 2021 10:10 AM GMT
A Lawyer Is Behind Bars; Serious Matter : Bombay High Court Raps Police Over Inconsistent Answers On Lawyers Arrest
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The Bombay High Court on Monday took serious note of the police's changing statements regarding a lawyer's alleged illegal arrest and false implication in a kidnapping and extortion case registered on his client's complaint last month. "Tell them we will not spare them if they play any mischief with the court," Justice SJ Kathawalla, heading the division bench, told Chief...

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The Bombay High Court on Monday took serious note of the police's changing statements regarding a lawyer's alleged illegal arrest and false implication in a kidnapping and extortion case registered on his client's complaint last month.

"Tell them we will not spare them if they play any mischief with the court," Justice SJ Kathawalla, heading the division bench, told Chief Public Prosecutor Deepak Thakare, while directing the Kharghar police in Navi Mumbai to file their affidavit.

The Kharghar police arrested advocate Vimal Umeshchandra Jha for offences punishable under IPC sections 323, 364A, 365, 387, 506 r/w 34 for allegedly trying to extort Rs 3 crore from his client and subsequently kidnapping him.

The police initially said Jha was arrested on April 3 and produced before the Magistrate on April 5. Later they claimed to have arrested him on April 4.

The court was hearing a criminal PIL filed by the Lawyers for Just Society through Law Global seeking thirty-six-year-old Jha's immediate release; compensation of Rs 5 crores from errant police officers; and guidelines to protect lawyer's from police harassment.

Another petition filed by Jha, through advocate Prashant Pandey, seeks directions to quash the FIR.

According to the plea, Navanth Gole, who has several criminal cases against him, was Jha's client. The two became friends and Jha agreed to invest money in Gole's businesses and buy his premises for Rs 80 lakhs. They accompanied each other to several places for work. However, Jha was arrested following a missing complaint by the advocate's wife.

During the hearing, Advocate Subhash Jha, for the petitioner, submitted that Jha was arrested on April 3 but produced before the Magistrate only on April 5, in violation of section 57 of the CrPC and Article 22(2) of the Constitution of India.

He further said that Jha was illegally handcuffed when he was taken from the police station to the court. The prosecution did not deny taking him to court in handcuffs. Jha alleged that a police constable posted at Mantralaya was the complainant's brother-in-law and they hatched a conspiracy to frame Jha in a false case.

When Justice Kathawalla sought to know the date of Jha's arrest, Chief Public Prosecutor Deepak Thakare for the police said April 3, 2021, only to change his statement to say the arrest was made on April 4, at 4.39 am. Thakare said he was produced the very next day.

Asked about the odd timing of the arrest, Thakare, on instructions, initially said a police officer had gone to Jha's house, however, he later admitted Jha was already at the police station.

"Why are you repeatedly making false statements before us? And your officer is present before you," the bench asked. Thakare, said he was submitting as per the instructions.

Following a query from the court, Thakare said that the CCTV footage from the relevant dates was also not available, as its installation began only on May 1, 2021. However, Jha countered him and said there are big CCTV cameras at the entrance of the police station premises.

"What is the requirement at a police station? Is it not that all police stations should have CCTV cameras. A lawyer is behind bars. This is a very serious matter," Justice Kathawalla said.

Thakare also said that he was not going to support the police in restraining Jha with handcuffs.

Pandey submitted that the lawyer was currently admitted to a private hospital owing to the various ailments he suffers from. Moreover, his mobile phone's tower location would also reveal that he was in the police station since 8.30pm on April 3.

The bench will now hear the matter on Wednesday.


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