Close to five years after a group of Shiv Sainiks allegedly attacked a couple that was kissing on a skywalk in Ulhasnagar, the Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission (MSHRC) has declined to act against police for failing to book the party workers.
In November 2014, a group of Shiv Sainiks had allegedly manhandled and abused a young couple that was kissing on the skywalk leading to the railway station, accusing them of “indecent behaviour” in a public place.
A video, which was posted on social media a month later, showed a local political worker, identified as Meenal Pakhare, slapping the young girl and forcing her to call her parents to inform them of her whereabouts and abusing them over the phone.
Pakhare and some other men had also allegedly attacked the woman’s partner and had justified their actions saying they had received complaints from residents against young couples displaying “indecent behaviour” on the skywalk.
However, there was no FIR at the time as the couple declined to press charges against the Shiv Sainiks. In 2015, a Mumbai-based social activist G D’Souza wrote to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) seeking action against police in Ulhasnagar for not acting against the Shiv Sainiks.
The complaint was transferred to the MSHRC, which sent numerous notices to D’Souza to appear before police and present documents supporting his allegations.
In the absence of D’Souza’s involvement in the proceedings, the commission examined the mother of the girl, who deposed that she had “amicably settled the dispute” with the Shiv Sainiks in exchange for not filing a complaint against her daughter for “behaving indecently” in public.
In addition, another social activist Raj Asronkar, who claimed to have approached police in Decemer 2014, after the video of the assault became public, informed the commission that he did not know D’Souza and that no official complaint had been lodged at the time.
Pakhare, in her deposition before the commission, said her actions were necessary “to maintain decency in the locality”.
In the end, however, with D’Souza not having taken part in the probe, the commission was left to conclude that police had chosen to not act against the Shiv Sainiks as no one registered a formal complaint and because the girl’s mother had arrived at a settlement.
In his order issued on June 18, M A Sayeed, the commission’s member and acting chairman, wrote that nonetheless, police is duty-bound to not allow moral policing.
“…it has to be borne in mind that with the courts being very critical of moral policing, the duty falls on the law enforcing agency to take appropriate action according to law, depending on the facts and circumstances of each case,” states the order.
The order also invoked Clause F of Article 51A of the Constitution, which describes the Fundamental Duties of Indian citizens (to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture) in order to remind young citizens that “the culture and rich heritage do not permit of such actions by young generations”.