Reprimanding the police for wrongly arresting 17 senior citizens for playing cards, the Bombay High Court insisted that the police act in line with the law while raiding gambling dens or any other places under the Gambling Act.
In a 36-page judgement, delivered yesterday, the HC castigated the men in khaki for their ‘high-handed’ behaviour towards the elderly persons who were arrested for playing rummy and bridge at the card room of the Andheri Gymkhana. The division bench of Justices VM Kanade and PD Kode while quashing the FIR ruled, “The raiding police party proceeded on an incorrect presumption that gambling licences can be issued and only if such a licence is there, then card games can be played in the card room. The Assistant Public Prosecutor was unable to point out any provision of law which permitted any authority to issue a gambling licence to any club.”
After the petition was filed and two hearings completed, Shivaji Deshmukh, then senior police inspector of Andheri police station would repeatedly contact gym members Prakash Oza and Vijay Parekh and browbeat them with threats of retribution.
Advocate Tejas Bhatt, who represented the senior citizens, said, “He called up my clients who told me that he said, ‘Petition dala hai na, tum logon ko dekh lunga (You’ll have filed a petition. I will see you).’”
Bhatt then brought the threats to the notice of the court through an affidavit-in-rejoinder. In the judgement, the court stated, “In our view this act of the police is not only depreciable but also despicable.”
Significantly, cops ignored taking the permission of the Magistrate, which is required by law, before arresting women and bringing them to the police station at night, an action that the court termed as a ‘blatant violation’ of the law. Nor did they take along any policewomen while conducting the raid. None of the petitioners were put through a medical examination, required under law to ensure police does not subject accused persons to torture.
The judgment also stated that by merely finding counters and money on the petitioners’ person does not mean they were gambling. Nor did the FIR mention what game was being playing. According to the petitioners, they were playing Rummy and Bridge, which are both games of skill and not covered under the Bombay Prevention of Gambling Act, 1887.
The verdict, while giving police the benefit of the doubt, concluded, “We hope and trust that, in future, police takes extra care and caution before taking any steps for raiding any gambling dens or other places under other Acts. Police should not forget that the motto of the Maharashtra Police is ‘Sadrakshanaya Khalanigrahanaya’, which translates as committed to ‘Protecting the good and punishing the evil’.
According to the judgement, the FIR states that the raiding party, on August 10, 2011, comprising inspector Shekhar Bhalerao, PSI Ravindra Kadam, PSI Rahul Pakh and constable Subhash Ungle from the Andheri police station acting on a tip-off raided and arrested 25 persons from the Andheri Gymkhana.
The team was acting under the directions of ACP Prakash Wadkar. They asked the secretary of the premises Jaywant Sail (78), and an attendant, Sanjay Ghadigaonkar, whether the Gymkhana had any ‘gambling licence’. When they denied having any licence, all patrons were promptly arrested. Though the raid itself took place at 8.50 pm, the petitioners were only let off at 6.30 am the next morning.