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HC pulls up Mumbai Police for inaction over complaint by inter-caste couple facing death threats

A vacation bench of Justice S J Kathawalla and Justice Abhay Ahuja was hearing the couple's plea seeking police protection and various other reliefs.

Written by Omkar Gokhale | Mumbai |
November 12, 2021 12:37:19 am
The HC asked the police to take action on the petitioner's complaint and also said that if any police authority outside Maharashtra seeks to arrest the petitioners, they must seek the HC's permission (File)

The Bombay High Court on Thursday pulled up Mumbai Police and directed its Commissioner Hemant Nagrale to appear before it to respond with regard to police inaction over death threats and violence that followed an inter-caste marriage. Nagrale assured the court of immediate steps to give police protection, inquire into lapses, and action against wrongdoers based on the complaint.

The HC had last week directed the Mumbai Police to ensure “round the clock” protection to the young married couple, in-laws and witnesses to the marriage owing to death threats from the girl’s community.
The court had observed that the petitioners are legally married and only because they belong to different castes, “gruesome treatment” was given to them by the woman’s parents, along with the sarpanch of Chaubari village in Gujarat, community head and members of the community.

The bench on Thursday expressed displeasure that despite the woman’s complaint, after her father-in-law was grievously assaulted in September, Powai Police did not take any steps.

The court also remarked “if such inaction or insensitivity by police is happening in cities then one cannot imagine what must be happening in interior parts of the state”. It added that it does not want anyone to come to Mumbai and threaten the young couple and the man’s family members.

A vacation bench of Justice S J Kathawalla and Justice Abhay Ahuja was hearing the couple’s plea seeking police protection and various other reliefs.

The court had last week said that the petitioners had endured “violence, humiliation, rape, grievous bodily injury, and mental injury” for over a year, since they first eloped in February last year, till the woman escaped “horrendous confines” of her village and reunited with her husband and his family in Mumbai in August this year, and the threats continued thereafter. The petitioner woman (23), a commerce graduate, belongs to Ahir community and her husband (22), a Brahmin, holds a Bachelor of Management Studies (BMS) degree. Both hail from the same village Chaubari from Bachao taluka in Gujarat.

On Wednesday, the HC asked the police to take action on the petitioner’s complaint and also said that if any police authority outside Maharashtra seeks to arrest the petitioners, they must seek the HC’s permission “before taking any prejudicial, adverse, coercive steps against the said persons”.

After the woman’s lawyer Pranav Badheka complained of inaction, the court asked Nagrale, who appeared through video conference, “Why is no action taken when there is a complaint by a woman? Why is there no sensitivity to such an issue?” Nagrale assured the court of “immediate action”.

“This ought to have been done long back as the complaint is from August this year. And why was there no protection to the girl when she complained?” Justice Kathawalla said, to which Nagrale said that police officials will be deputed for the protection of the couple.

“We want action against wrongdoers, not just security… We do not want outsiders to get the feeling that they can do anything in Maharashtra,” the HC orally said.

The court then rapped the respondents from the village who were present in the court and told police, “They (respondents) are all liars. They are all together in this conspiracy… The man has the guts to come and beat the father. He behaved like a monster. The law says that we are not supposed to tell you (police) how to investigate, but you are not doing the duty… When a common citizen comes to you, you do not protect them. You need some phone calls from somewhere and only then do you people act. You are insensitive..”

The HC then sought affidavits in reply from respondents and posted further hearing to Saturday.

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