In two separate complaints of illegal detention and assault, the Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission (MSHRC) has held the Mumbai Police guilty and directed the home department to pay a total of Rs 3.5 lakh as compensation to four people. The commission, headed by Justice M A Sayeed, noted that “police do not have unfettered discretion to start an investigation as this leads to a ruthless destruction of personal freedom”. In the first case, the Crime Branch in Ghatkopar “illegally detained” Ashwini Khedekar, Ajit Khedekar and Sunil Jayram Shetty for more than 27 hours to interrogate them about the whereabouts of a gangster, whose name has been withheld. Their complaint stated that no action was taken when they lodged a report against the police after their release.
While the Crime Branch claimed the three were detained based on certain leads, the commission noted the suspicion was vague and the police had no credible information to interrogate them for 27 hours.
According to the MSHRC, an independent inquiry was also conducted in the case on directions of the Inspector General of Police. The inquiry found the crime branch had abused its power and detained the three without registering any offence against them. It was also found that no FIR was lodged against the three for any illegal activity associated with the gangster.
Noting that “an investigation cannot be started on unfounded suspicion”, the MSHRC has directed additional chief secretary, home department, to pay Rs 1 lakh each to Shetty, Ajit and Ashwini Khedekar.
In another case, the MSHRC has held the Mumbai police responsible for detaining a taxi driver and assaulting him at Aarey Colony police station.
Kishor Punde was picked up at midnight in 2009 when he was sitting outside his house in Goregaon. In his complaint, Punde claimed he was physically assaulted by inspector Laxman Tonpe and confined in a lock-up. He lodged a complaint but when no action was taken, he approached the MSHRC.
Punde was later admitted at Jogeshwari Trauma Hospital after he sustained injuries and swellings following the assault.
In 2011, a departmental inquiry found Tonpe guilty of misconduct and issued him a “strict warning”. The commission noted that only a warning was issued for physically abusing a citizen. It has directed the DGP to circulate guidelines and sensitise the police force to avoid loss of public faith in them.
The order directed the home secretary to provide compensation of Rs 50,000 to Punde.