Community service doesn't work in Mumbai. Here's proof

While quashing a rioting FIR against two groups of youngsters, the HC had asked them to clean a school and a station. When mid-day made a surprise visit on one of the days, we found that one group was idling and playing and the other still has not bothered to turn up

A group of youngsters accused of assault are now serving their punishment by napping and playing video games, all in the name of community service.

Youngsters ordered to do community service were lounging around at a municipal school in Mira-Bhayander
Youngsters ordered to do community service were lounging around at a municipal school in Mira-Bhayander

It was with the best of intentions that the Bombay High Court had decided to quash the police case against two brawling groups and instead sentenced them to clean a municipal school and a railway station for three months. But when mid-day dropped by the school recently to see how the community service was progressing, we found the young offenders simply lounging about and not doing any work. In addition, there was no one to monitor the group to ensure they were carrying out the court order. What’s more, the sentence has not even begun for the second group supposed to clean the railway station, even though more than a month has passed since the HC’s decision.

Read Story: With Rs 1K fine, community service, Maharashtra plans to spit out spitters

Youngsters ordered to do community service at a municipal school were spotted napping and playing games on their phones instead of cleaning the classrooms
Youngsters ordered to do community service at a municipal school were spotted napping and playing games on their phones instead of cleaning the classrooms

mid-day had reported earlier that a division bench of justices RV More and VL Achiliya decided to dismiss the police proceedings against the 19 accused after they said they had settled the matter amicably (‘Bombay High Court asks brawling youths to sweep station for three months’, February 24). Following the court order, the men were divided in two groups — the first group was ordered to sweep the Mira Road railway station under the observation of the station master, and the second group was ordered to sweep the Mira-Bhayander municipal Urdu school number 34 — both groups were told to carry out this community service every Sunday for three months.

The order stated that the station master of Mira Road station and the headmaster of the Thane school would have to monitor and supervise the work and keep the local police (Naya Nagar police station) informed about it. On March 23, this order reached Gorai police station, where the assault case was registered, and the cops forwarded the order to the school and stationmaster.

As per the court’s instructions, the first group has reported to the school on three Sundays so far — March 27, April 3 and 10. They were asked to clean the premises from 9 am to 5 pm but when this reporter went there last Sunday, he saw them resting in the empty classrooms and playing games on their mobile phones. The youths said they had been forbidden to talk to the media, but added that they had finished their chores and were on their lunch break. But this correspondent noticed that there were no brooms or any other signs of cleaning at the school.

Further, the school headmaster was supposed to supervise their work but even he was not present.

Police cop out
The court order clearly mentions that the senior inspector of Naya Nagar police station will have to verify whether the petitioners have rendered the community service. This duty was passed on to the Naya Nagar police station as it has jurisdiction in the school’s area, but the cops never bothered to do so.

“It is not our responsibility; the school and the railway and their concerned authorities have to decide how to comply with the order,” said Senior Inspector RK Jadhav from Naya Nagar police station. mid-day also tried to contact the headmaster of the school, but his mobile phone remained unreachable.

Mired in red tape
The situation was no better at Mira Road railway station, where the second group had not even done one day of community service, merely because of bureaucratic confusion over who would provide the cleaning material. “We already have staff that clean the station on a contract basis. We have received the order copy from Gorai Police and it has been sent to the higher authorities. They have to decide how the men will clean the station -- whether we have to provide the cleaning material or they will bring it along with them,” said station master Hemant Breed from Mira Road railway station.

Case history
The 18 youths had gone in two separate groups to a resort in Gorai in April last year, where they got into a scrap and assaulted each other. Both groups filed FIRs against each other at the Gorai police station. Later, they told the HC they had settled their differences. The cases were quashed and they were asked to do community service instead.

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