A DRUGS case, which led the Punjab and Haryana High Court to order installation of close circuit television (CCTV) cameras at entry and exit points of all police stations in the two states of Punjab and Haryana, made it to check the the location of the police officials’ mobile phones and also order an inquiry against a senior superintendent of police (SSP) ended in a twist in the tale with the accused’s plea for anticipatory bail being dismissed after it was found that he owned two passports in different names.
Haryana has already installed the cameras at all its police stations while Punjab is about to complete the process. The direction to the two states was issued to ensure verification of the statements made by the police on the timing of the arrests they make. The court, during the course of trial, had also directed the police departments to explore the option of providing body cameras to its personnel for recording any chance recoveries. However, that order is yet to be implemented.
Soon after he was booked in an NDPS case by the SBS Nagar police in January 2018 , accused Ashok Kumar alias Shoki approached the High Court with an anticipatory bail plea alleging that he was never at the spot from where the recovery was made. He even claimed that the car from which the recovery is said to have been made does not belong to him. He further alleged that the Mukandpur police station officials were targeting him as he had previously initiated proceedings against a police official posted there. The High Court had granted him interim protection from arrest during the pendency of the plea.
As per the police complaint, the car was being driven by the accused but he managed to flee from the spot. During the course of the trial, the High Court directed to check the phone records of the police officials, who were part of the team which made the recovery, to verify the contents of the FIR. The tower location of the phones was matched with the location of the accused’s mobile phone. At least three police personnel were found to be in the area at the time of the said recovery.
An investigation conducted during the pendency of the case also revealed that six passports were recovered from the Ashok Kumar’s car. One passport identified the accused as Ashok Kumar while another identified him as Santokh Ram. Both the passports were found to have been issued after proper police verification. No person named Santokh Ram was found to be living in the village and the two passports had similar photograph.
“Even if the mobile phone records of one or two other police personnel do not tally with their alleged presence at the spot, the petitioner, in the entire circumstances, in my opinion cannot be extended the concession of anticipatory bail any further, especially looking at his dubious background as has been at least so far shown to this court, with him having, prima facie at least, obtained two passports in different names,” the order passed by Justice Amol Rattan Singh read.
The High Court during the hearings of the case also had ordered inquiry against the SSP of the district following allegations that the police on his instructions removed several CCTV cameras during a raid in Aur and Garopur villages in January. Kumar had alleged that he had installed the cameras at his residence because the police officials of Mukandpur and other police stations would raid his house regularly and he was apprehensive of being falsely implicated in different cases.
In the final order of the case, the bench has also noted that “this case has been prolonged unnecessarily by this Court (this Bench) upon detailed arguments having been addressed each time by learned counsel on the innocence of the petitioner and his allegedly having been falsely involved in the case”.
The accused remained on interim bail for almost a year during the pendency of the case.