In his anticipatory bail application filed on Tuesday in the sessions court, Dr T P Lahane, dean of state-run J J Hospital, contended that if there was substance in the complaint of Naresh Waghela that the former called him ‘bhangi’, he would have approached the police at the time of the incident. Lahane stated that Waghela, however, filed a complaint only after he lodged a written complaint with the police stating Waghela obstructed other workers from carrying out their duty, stated the application.
The bail plea was filed through Lahane’s lawyer Swapna Kode, a day after the Bombay High Court on Monday granted protection from arrest till February 20 to Padmashree recipient Lahane. The court had directed Lahane to approach the sessions court for an anticipatory bail.
Lahane’s application also stated that he was aware that a majority of the striking class 3 and 4 workers belonged to Schedule Castes and Scheduled Tribes, and hence he would never utter words that would cause “intentional insult”.
Senior counsel Ashok Mundargi, who appeared for Lahane before the high court on Monday, argued that his client did not know the name of the complainant and so he could not have called him “bhangi” as alleged by the sweeper.
The J J Marg police had on Friday booked Lahane under the sections of the IPC and Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act for intentionally insulting or intimidating with the intent to humiliate a member of a Scheduled Caste (SC) or a Scheduled Tribe (ST) in public. Waghela filed the complaint alleging that Lahane called him “bhangi” in the presence of several employees.
Lahane also filed a separate petition seeking quashing of the FIR lodged against him, arguing it was filed as an afterthought.
According to Lahane’s petition, there were two groups of sweepers, one led by Waghela and the other by Bharat Solanki. Solanki was appointed as mukadam (supervisor) as a result of which Waghela was aggrieved. Waghela had asked Lahane to remove Solanki from the supervisor’s post, but the dean did not oblige.
“The entire complaint is in bad taste and only made with a view to vent grudges against the applicant (Lahane) and tarnish his image,” the petition stated.
It further read, “The applicant himself belongs to nomadic tribe Vanjhari Samaj and hence the use of such words or an act of intentionally insulting them can never be committed by the applicant.”
The incident allegedly took place on February 14 when Waghela, along with a few other temporary workers, met Lahane to discuss the issue of getting permanent posts in the hospitals. For the past 20 years, around 700 workers have been employed with the four state-run hospitals on temporary basis and hence there is a lower pay scale for them.