A 28-year-old man was allegedly beaten up by plainclothes policemen simply for sitting outside a cafe in Colaba. The incident took place at 12:45 am on June 8. Charlie Lalhmachhuana, an employee of Mizoram House at Parel, was sitting with two of his friends outside Café Royal.
"As it was the weekend we had gone out for drinks to a restaurant in Colaba, from there we went to another cafe and had a pitcher of beer. We were sitting outside the cafe and chatting when the police arrived in a jeep and asked us to leave the spot. They also asked us for identity proof, which we showed them," said Charlie, a receptionist at Mizoram House.
When he and his friends, Vena and Dinpuii, told the police officials they were not breaking any law by sitting there, a policeman walked up to them and told them to leave. An argument broke out, following which the three decided to leave.
"While we were getting into the cab, I turned around to look at one of the policemen. He pulled me back and asked why I was looking at him. He then started hitting me with a stick," he said.
Charlie was taken to Colaba police station and allegedly slapped there. "I could not hear from my right ear after I was slapped at the police station. I asked the duty officer the name of the policeman who had hit me outside the restaurant – he wasn’t wearing a uniform and had a red and blue shirt on," said Charlie. He said that he was only told the last name of the policeman – Chavan.
The police released Charlie around 1.45 am when his friends reached the station. His friend Dinpuii, 28, said, “For the first time I felt scared and unsafe in Mumbai. I have been living in this city for four years and never experienced anything like this before. I requested the cops to let Charlie go but they said I should come to the police station and say whatever I had to say there. When Vena asked the officers why Charlie was being detained, they threatened her.”
Rameshwar Supale, senior police inspector at Colaba police station, said, "Charlie was taken to the police station for enquiry as he was sitting on a taxi with two of his friends. The policemen patrolling the area found this suspicious and brought him to the police station. He released when his friends arrived and vouched for him.”
He added, “Charlie was asked for his identification, which he should have given. We had detained him because he was drunk and arguing with the officers. We were thinking of filing a complaint against Charlie for deterring a public servant from doing his work, but did not take the step as his friends requested us not to and showed us his ID.” Deven Bharti, joint commissioner of police (law and order), said he has no information about the incident and will check whether an enquiry is needed.
Charlie said that he had informed the authorities at Mizoram house about the incident, and that they were deciding what action to take.
Know your rights when dealing with the police
Do I have to go anywhere with a police officer if he tells me to?
No. However, if the officer in on official business and is asking you to come along as a witness for something like arresting a person, seizing property or examining a crime scene, then you must go along and help. Traditionally, that is called being a pancha – an independent eyewitnesses who can tell the court what he saw.
What if he tells me to go to the police station with him? Do I have to go?
No. It is good to cooperate with the police but it is not necessary to go to the station unless the officer is formally arresting you. Otherwise, if he just wants to question you or is making inquiries about a crime, he has to summon you in writing. Until that is done you cannot be forced to go to the station. Woman and children under 15 can be questioned only in their homes.
Can the police do anything they want?
Not at all. They can only do what is lawful. In fact, they are governed by many rules. These include their own department’s regulations, procedures laid down in criminal law, orders of Supreme Court and guidelines from human rights commissions.
What if a police officer is rude or insults me?
Again, you can complain to his senior if it is a matter of breach of duty or discipline. But if it is anything more serious, and or amounts to a crime, you can file a complaint against him at a police station or go the local judicial magistrate.
If I am walking down the street, can a police officer stop me and ask me anything he likes?
No. In general the police are not supposed to interfere with people going about their business. But if a policeman thinks you are loitering, especially after dark, he can stop and ask your name and what you are doing there. If he believes something suspicious is going on, you can be arrested. The police use this power often, as a means of rounding up suspects and habitual offenders. The misuse and overuse of this power has often been discussed by reform committees and roundly condemned.
Can the officer keep me at the police station or can I leave when I want?
Unless you have been formally arrested for a good reason, you cannot be held in custody against your will. If the police have summoned you for questioning you have a duty to cooperate with them. But the questioning has to be prompt and cannot go on and on. The police cannot make you wait endlessly at the police station. In any case, you can leave when you want.
What is the officer does not let me go?
If you are not under arrest, a policeman keeping you in custody is committing a serious offence called illegal detention. You, your family or your friends can complain about the officer to his senior or even the local magistrate. In fact, you can go directly to the high court or even the Supreme Court through your lawyer, and file a habeas corpus petition seeking your immediate release.
Can the police officer beat me up in custody?
No. He cannot beat you up, slap you, threaten or intimidate you in custody. It is against the law and the officer can be punished for it.
(Courtesy: Maharashtra Police Website)