That was an excise in futility

  • Harwant Singh, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: May 07, 2014 09:09 IST

This encounter pertains to late nineteen sixties, wherein the police had yet not fine-tuned the art of 'encounters', nor had these taken their latter-day deadly form. A friend, his father and I had driven to Kasauli for the day and after an enjoyable afternoon at the Kasauli Club were on our way back to Ambala when we decided to collect some liquor on the way.

While crossing a place called Dalli on the Kalka-Dharampur road, famous for chicken pickle and wine shops, we decided to buy the authorised quantity of liquor. Those days one could carry four bottles of beer and one of whisky from Himachal into Haryana. So between the three of us we bought 12 bottles of beer and three of whisky.

At the Haryana police nakka at Kalka, we were stopped and a search of our car commenced. As the car boot was opened and the policemen saw those bottles, a look of glee appeared on their faces.

One of them called out to the sub-inspector, "Challan likho sir." I explained to the policemen that we were three in the car and that we were carrying the authorised amount.

They would not accept my explanation because, according to them, the stock was lying as one lot and therefore, the possession was with one person, and that being more than the authorised quota, was an offence.

Then I enquired as to who among the three of us would be challaned. Obviously the owner of the car, they said. All this while, the sub-inspector was busy noting down the car number and demanding details.

I took out the spanners from the tool box and separated the liquor into three lots, placing a spanner between each and told the policemen that now these stood separated into three lots, each belonging to one of us.

This business of spanners in the works did not seem to work with the police. However, I continued to argue our case and yet could cut no ice with the policemen and the sub-inspector, who was hell-bent on issuing a challan.

Admittedly, I did make a few moves to reach for my purse and each time a look of expectation appeared on the faces of the policemen, but these moves were merely to see that reaction.

All this while my friend's father stood away and intently watched these somewhat comical proceedings. When nothing prevailed and the sub-inspector refused to see the case in perspective and relent, my friend's father decided to intervene and told the sub-inspector that he had been watching the proceedings and would like to take official note of these.

He informed the sub-inspector that he was the sessions judge at Ambala and might want to see him in his court. At this, the sub-inspector saluted him and sought forgiveness.

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