Whistleblowers , mavericks, or publicity hounds? Or all of the three?
From scores of PILs, RTI queries and press releases, targeting politicians, policemen, godmen, cricketers and even Bollywood songs, to an audio clip last week allegedly of Mulayam Singh Yadav issuing a threat over phone, the Thakurs of Lucknow — IPS officer Amitabh and lawyer Nutan — have defied description.
The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court did give it a try on April 11, 2014 while hearing a plea by Nutan against the security provided to the PM, former PMs and their immediate family members.
Dismissing the petition, the bench said it was filed with the “purpose for seeking publicity”.
Noting that the couple had filed 160 writ petitions in the last three-four years, out of which 140 were by Nutan alone, the bench decided to impose a cost of Rs 25,000 for each PIL filed by her, on the condition that the sum be returned if the plea was found to be genuine.
The bench said it wanted to save itself from a “tsunami of writ petitions filed by the petitioner who appears almost every other day in court”.
And yet, two years before, the same court took note of a PIL filed by Nutan and took the CBI to task for its “pick and choose approach” in arresting the accused in a scam related to the National Rural Health Mission.
In the same year, the Lucknow bench slapped a fine of Rs 1 lakh on Nutan for filing a “frivolous petition” which accused the then Press Council of India chairman Markandey Katju and four others of not implementing a judgment banning media reporting on movement of army troops.
“Many of our PILs have a parallel with what Raj Kapoor underwent with ‘Mera Naam Joker’. It was considered a failure but later became a classic,” Amitabh Thakur told The Indian Express.
It’s been an eventful life for Mr and Mrs Thakur.
From the time Amitabh, an IIT Kanpur graduate, joined the IPS in 1992 after working at the Bokaro Steel Plant, to the 16 years he remained stuck on the rank of SP because of various departmental inquiries, and now the alleged Mulayam tape.
The latest twist, of course, is the rape complaint against Amitabh in January based on which an FIR was registered on July 11, a day after the tape was made public — the 47-year-old has denied the charge and questioned the complainant’s version.
The spat with the Samajwadi Party supremo is believed to be linked to the couple’s allegations of corruption against UP Mining Minister Gayatri Prasad Prajapati. On July 9, an FIR was registered against Prajapati, UP Women’s Commission chief Zarina Usmani and six others on charges of “framing” the Thakurs in false cases.
And all this comes barely a month after Amitabh recorded and posted online a video of journalist Jagendra Singh alleging from his hospital bed that he was set on fire by police on the behest of another minister Ram Murti Singh Verma. The recording went on to become Singh’s dying declaration and went viral on social media.
What motivates him, said the senior police officer, are three reasons: “First is a sense of attachment to justice; second, I feel good if I can help somebody; and then, I also want some recognition and regard in return from my work.”
He also admitted: “There are definitely some PILs which were populist in nature and could have been avoided, like that (demanding a ban) on the song Sheila ki Jawani. At the same time, I feel there were some serious litigations which were not taken seriously by the court.”
It’s not just Amitabh and Nutan, their children Aditya and Tanya, too, have got into the act — again, with mixed results.
In 2012, an FIR was registered against Nirmal Baba on their plea that he was fooling people in the name of religion and promoting superstition.
In 2013, they filed a PIL against the Bharat Ratna being awarded to eminent scientist C N R Rao, but received a warning from the court against filing pleas for publicity.
Today, both are law students, Tanya (20) in her fourth year at Chanakya National Law University in Patna, and Aditya (17) in his second year at Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University in Lucknow.
But nothing compares to the range of pleas filed by the Thakur Seniors, from a complaint against Ram Jethmalani to a PIL against the Indian Olympic Association’s suspension, a petition for an FIR against actor Kamal R Khan and another against the Bharat Ratna for Sachin Tendulkar.
Here’s a selection of some of their other PILs:
* 2010: Against an RTI fee of Rs 500 being charged by the UP Vidha Sabha; pending.
* 2011: To regulate air fares, citing increase by more than 100 per cent at times, such as the Cricket World Cup semifinal in Mohali; pending.
* 2012: Against CBI demanding CCTV cameras in their office premises and their interrogation rooms; disposed of.
* 2013: Against then UP Chief Secretary Jawed Usmani over vacancies in Schedule Castes and Scheduled Tribes Commission; showcause notice was issued to Usmani.
* 2013: Against BCCI, stating recommendations for national awards for Virat Kohli and Sunil Gavaskar against law; plea termed premature.
* 2013: Against formation of policy on “uncontrolled population”; plea dismissed.
* 2013: For formation of policy to regulate “astrology” and to form regulatory bodies for godmen, occult science preachers or astrologers; plea dismissed.
“When courts make a (negative) observation, then certainly there might have been something lacking (in the PILs), but the intentions were good,” said Nutan.
The Thakurs claim they have also filed at least 500 RTI queries on a number of issues.
The two take action on their own, too — on reports of alleged human rights violations or crimes. They land up at the spot and follow up with PILs, police complaints or letters to various authorities.
This year, they complained to Governor Ram Naik against alleged “improper” appointments by Vidhan Sabha Speaker Mata Prasad Pandey of his two sons-in-law to “high posts” in government.
When the UP Home Department placed Amitabh on suspension from the post of IG/Jt Director (Civil Defence HQ) on July 13, it accused him of going beyond his jurisdiction and inquiring into matters of various departments “without the permission of the competent officer”.
It’s not the first such setback for Amitabh.
In 2006, he was allegedly manhandled by then SP MLA Ramaveer Singh when he was SP, Firozabad. He went on to lodge an FIR, but the accused was acquitted after the witnesses turned hostile.
In 2008, he got embroiled in a tussle with the Home Department over leave to attend a four-year management course at IIM Lucknow. After a prolonged legal battle that reached the High Court, the government permitted him to go on leave from June 9, 2009 to February 17, 2011.
In his 23-year career, Amitabh has been posted to the SP CB-CID HQ, Special Inquiry Department, State Crime Records Bureau, Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar Police Academy, Vigilance Establishment, UP Police Computer Centre, State Intelligence headquarters, Economic Offence Wing (EOW), Rules and Manuals, and even the 20 Battalion PAC.
Nutan, meanwhile, joined the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) but quit in 2013 when a sting operation emerged allegedly of party leaders indulging in corruption.
In December 2013, a poem titled ‘Arvind Kejriwal’ was uploaded on a blog maintained by the couple.
It read: “The only thing that I don’t know even till date is about the genuineness of Mr K, the inherent reality the truth behind the mask.”