Those were the dark days of my life when I was branded a criminal and the ordeal continued for five years. It was like hell.
It all started on a Sunday morning when I left for a friend's wedding. My driver was behind the wheels. As we were going, a bus stopped near a village along the highway. It was the conductor's village and he had gone to fetch his lunchbox. Suddenly, a person came out of nowhere running towards the bus with a lunch box in hand, and got hit by my car.
I stepped outside to see the condition of the victim. Some people gathered around the car, helped shift the person to my car and volunteered to accompany us to the hospital.
I dropped the idea of going to the wedding and asked the driver to rush to the medical college, my alma mater where I knew some doctors.
The patient was admitted in the emergency. I sat beside him and arranged for the medicines. When his relatives came, I took leave, thinking I had a clear conscience as I had done my duty.
A few days later, I was shocked when a policeman came to my hospital and asked me whether my car had met with an accident. When I said yes, he told me that an FIR had been lodged against me, so he was taking away the car. He asked me to come to the police station the next day.
I called up my insurance agent, who said I need not bother as such FIRs are filed to get compensation. I went to the police station. This was my first brush with law. The inspector said he would have to show my arrest and then give interim bail, but I would have to go to court to seek regular bail and get my car released. We went to court and hired a lawyer. "This is a routine matter. I'll defend you in both the criminal and the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal case. You will have to appear in court just three-four times," he said.
It still had not hit me that I would be labelled as a criminal till my exoneration. The scary reality started dawning on me when the hearings began. At every hearing, I had to take the same car along, stand outside the court and wait for my turn along with other criminals.
Then another incident shook me out of my senses. My car had gone for service, so I took another vehicle to go for the hearing. "Accused present?" the judge asked. I said yes. "Car present?" "No," I replied. The judge got angry and ordered the car to be confiscated and my bail to be cancelled.
I was at my wits' end. What had I done to deserve this? Going through the entire process again, I got my car and bail after a week. After a long five-year struggle, I finally got bail. But whenever I've to fill a form with a column asking whether I've faced a criminal case, I have to say yes. This tag of criminal will stay with me for life.