OBSERVING that Thane police acted in a “high-handed” manner and did not follow “due process of law” while arresting lawyer Rizwan Siddiqui, the Bombay High Court on Wednesday ordered his release. He was arrested for allegedly illegally obtaining Call Detail Records (CDRs) of Bollywood actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s wife Aaliya Siddiqui.
The order also directed the Home Department to launch disciplinary proceedings against Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime Branch) Abhishek Trimukhe for unlawful detention. “… the petitioner and her husband may initiate or file civil suit and criminal prosecution against this police officer for taking the law in his hands. Such prosecution shall continue uninfluenced by any proceedings that may be initiated against the petitioner’s husband for having violated the law,” the court said. Lawyer Rizwan was released on Wednesday afternoon.
On Monday, Rizwan Siddiqui’s wife Tasneem filed a petition at the Bombay High Court through lawyer Rizwan Merchant stating that her husband had been wrongfully arrested in violation of the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code. The petition also said her husband was being subjected to wrongful and illegal detention. It sought issuance of a Writ of Habeas Corpus to produce lawyer Rizwan Siddiqui. On Tuesday, Merchant contended in the court that the arrest was illegal on the grounds that it violated Section 41-A (notice of appearance before police officer) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
Assistant Public Prosecutor J P Yagnik countered stating that when they sought to serve the notice on Rizwan Siddiqui, he had refused. Yagnik further sought time to produce the record that would indicate that he had refused to accept the notice. A division bench of Justice S C Dharmadhikari and Justice Prakash D Naik granted the prosecution one day’s time to produce the record.
On Wednesday, assistant public prosecutor Aruna Pai submitted in the High Court a letter from the crime branch and a copy of the remand application, both referring to Rizwan Siddiqui’s ostensible refusal to accept the notice. Unconvinced, the court said: “Will you release him or we will pass order? You want strictures against officers or inquiry — all will be ordered.” The matter was adjourned for an hour on Pai’s request. An hour later, Pai told the court, in the presence of the deputy commissioner of police from Thane, that they have no objection to his release.
When Pai said the DCP was present before the court to make the statement, the court said: “… he is not obliging this court by making any statement… he must admit that he has taken law in his hands and he would voluntarily proceed to release the petitioner’s husband from custody. This was the expectation from this police officer and if he had apologised genuinely and bonafide and sought time to release the petitioner’s husband, we would not have directed any action to be taken against him.”
The court also said the lawyer enjoyed no immunity from prosecution “if he is a criminal”. It said: “The police officials can also proceed against him, but strictly in accordance with law. We, therefore, do not pronounce upon the guilt or otherwise of the petitioner’s husband or correctness of the charges levelled against him.” Trimukhe refused comment. An officer of Thane police said: “We will go through the court order and decide on the next course of action.”