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'What Kind Of Officers Are They? Further Victimizing The Victim': Kerala High Court On Bribery Allegations Against Police

Hannah M Varghese
2 Nov 2021 4:30 AM GMT
What Kind Of Officers Are They? Further Victimizing The Victim: Kerala High Court On Bribery Allegations Against Police
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The Kerala High Court on Monday issued a set of interim directions in a case where the Assistant Sub Inspector of Police (ASI) is accused of demanding bribe for the release of two girls from a children's home to their parents. The case was registered suo motu on the basis of a news report.When the matter was taken up, Justice Devan Ramachandran reprimanded the Police for victimizing...

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The Kerala High Court on Monday issued a set of interim directions in a case where the Assistant Sub Inspector of Police (ASI) is accused of demanding bribe for the release of two girls from a children's home to their parents. The case was registered suo motu on the basis of a news report.

When the matter was taken up, Justice Devan Ramachandran reprimanded the Police for victimizing the family and making them finance the to and fro air tickets and accommodation for the investigating officers who went to Delhi in search of the missing girls.

"How are they (the concerned police officers) further victimizing the victims? What kind of police officers are they? Don't they have any self-respect?" the Court asked rather troubled.

The Court opined that by harassing the already shaken family, the police was further victimizing the victim and observed that there was no accountability in the system whatsoever.

Interim Order:

  • Competent authorities will ensure that the victim girls are forthwith returned to their home and the Protection Officer under POCSO will keep a vigil on them on a continuous basis. Needless to say, if any complaint is made by them, the competent authority should immediately act and ensure that they are protected in terms of law.
  • Even though one of them says that she does not want to study further, the Protection Officer shall either counsel them or cause proper counselling in the presence of her parents so that the shock of the past incidents can be alleviated to the extent possible and they can be brought back to normal life as practically possible. This shall be done with the empathy it deserves and KELSA should offer their assistance as and when necessary.
  • The Commissioner of Police, Kochi will file an Action Taken Report enclosing therein the charge memo against the officers concerned and explain the further steps taken against them, particularly on the allegation of the family that they were forced to provide air tickets, accommodation and that a demand of  Rs. 5 lakh was demanded as a bribe by the ASI.
  • As part of the investigation against the police officers, any statement of the family of the victims is to be obtained only in the presence of the Protection Officer at their residence and not in the Police station. 

News Report Suggests Police Demanded Money To Release Two Girls To Their Parents: Kerala High Court Takes Suo Motu Cognizance

Allegation of Bribery

The Court inquired as to the progress of the probe into the allegation of bribery. Government Pleader E.C. Bineesh responded that an enquiry has been ordered and an enquiry officer has been appointed in the matter.

However, the Court noted that the accused police officer had only been transferred instead of being suspended. It added:

"Even assuming the girls did implicate their brothers, I have to see what is happening. I can't let these girls be destroyed like this."

Similarly, the Court noted that there was absolutely no justification for keeping the girls away from their parents.

"Allegations are still pending against the brothers. But why were the girls languishing in a care home education disturbed, away from family? The victim just keeps getting more victimized."

Court's Endeavour:

Through the orders of this court, the resolve was to verify two aspects:

  • Whether the allegations made by the family of the two victim girls are true and if so, what action is being taken thereon?
  • The well being of the two victim girls who are presently in a Care Home.

With the afore in mind, in the previous order, the Court had requested the Kerala Legal Service Authority (KELSA) to depute a competent lady officer to talk to the family and the victim girls and thereby file a report.

Advocate Santhosh Mathew appeared for KELSA and handed over a report settled by the Secretary of the District Legal Services Authority who is also a Sub-Judge, in a sealed cover. 

The Court opened the seal in the presence of all counsels in open court and perused its contents. 

In the account of implicit requirements of confidentiality, the Court did not reflect upon the details of the report.

However, the bench while dictating the order revealed that it was perspicuous therefrom the stand of the victim girls is that the elder among them made certain statements to the Police Authorities, as well as to the Magistrate under Section 164 CrPC being persuaded and pressurized on account of certain inducements and promises.

The Court clarified that this did not imply that it finds the same to be true but the sub judge had reported that the girls were very firm in their stand that they want to return to their family forthwith. 

It was also reported that according to the girls, their brothers are very fond of them and they have never misbehaved with them. They seemed to desperately want to be reunited with their family and live with their parents in future. 

Action against Responsible Police Officers:

The Government Pleader filed a memo showing the proceedings of the Police Commissioner dated 16th October. The said proceedings indicated that a three-member team had flown to Delhi which was entirely financed by the parents of the victim girls.

The proceedings also disclosed that at least 5 airline tickets were purchased by the parents and at least two of them were forced to be provided accommodation by the family. 

As per the Commissioner, an enquiry has been ordered against all officers and a charge sheet will be issued to them soon.

Concerns of the Court:

Although the action proposed was a welcome step,  the Court placed on record certain concerns it prima facie gathered while perusing the said report:

  • There is not a whisper in the report regarding the allegation of the victim's parents that the ASI had demanded a bribe of Rs. 5 lakhs and that when they refused to give the same- being financially unable to do so- the brothers were implicated.
  • It does not specifically say that any action is proposed to be taken against all the five officers who availed of flight tickets from the family of the victims; instead, they have confined it to three officers. 

The competent authority was directed to look into these aspects as well.

Other Submissions:

Advocate Gajendra Singh, who was engaged by KELSA to appear for the victims before the Magistrate, submitted that the accused brothers were granted bail in the matter with a condition not to enter the district of Ernakulam.

Advocate V. Jojo who brought the information of the news item to the Court's notice at the first instance submitted that going by the reports, the girls only know Hindi so it was possible that they were persuaded to make certain statements under pressure or inducement.

The Court refused to comment anything regarding this since these were a part of the ongoing investigation.

However, the bench was convinced that the girls, presently lodged at a Care Home, unequivocally expressed their intense desire to be reunited with their parents.

"I see no reason to stop them, particularly because their brothers - even assuming that the allegations made against them are true- are presently under orders of bail, inhibiting their entry into the Ernakulam District." 

Accordingly, the matter was adjourned to be called on 16th November, with strict instructions to the Registry to reseal the cover submitted by KELSA and the Section 164 statement submitted by the Government Pleader and to maintain it in the files appropriately, without a copy of the same being handed over to anyone even on application. 

Before moving to the next case, the judge quoted Mark Twain, "truth is stranger than fiction".

Background:

According to the Mathrubhumi newspaper, a Delhi couple, who migrated to Kochi 11 years ago, alleged that the Kochi police demanded Rs. 5 lakh from them for the release of their daughters.

The two daughters had gone missing reportedly after falling prey to cybercrime through which the eldest daughter's alleged online boyfriend convinced her to leave her home.

Consequently, the sisters had gone to Delhi without their parents' knowledge. Upon finding that their daughters were missing, a complaint was immediately lodged with the Kochi police.

The police upon preliminary enquiry found that the girls were in Delhi. The parents soon flew to Delhi and continued their search.

They were further asked to finance the air tickets and accommodation for a three-member investigation team from the Kerala Police. 

The Police traced the girls to be with two men Faizen and Subair. Upon examination, it was revealed that the duo had raped the elder daughter.

Accordingly, Subair was arrested by the Kerala police, and the girls were taken into their custody. They failed to arrest the second accused; instead, they took in the three brothers of the victim.

Accordingly, the girls were housed at a Children's Home. When the parents requested for their daughters to be released, the ASI allegedly demanded Rs. 5 lakhs from them.

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