Seventeen senior citizens who were arrested by the police last year for playing card games — Rummy and Bridge — at a suburban Gymkhana got a major relief from the Bombay High Court yesterday. It awarded Rs 1,000 as compensation to each of the petitioners, while the two women who were also arrested are to get Rs 26,000 each.
The case relates to the 17 persons, mostly senior citizens, who were arrested by cops from Andheri Gymkhana’s card room in August last year, under the Bombay Prevention of Gambling Act, 1887. A police raid party picked up 25 persons from the Gymkhana for playing cards. They were charged under gambling laws, despite both rummy and bridge being games of skill, and not even amounting to gambling.
“The police have crossed a line. Before jumping to conclusions based on information they receive, they ought to verify it before raiding a place,” observed Justices VM Kanade and PD Kode.
The petitioners in their plea had stated that the games they were playing are neither ‘gaming’ (wagering) nor ‘gambling’ under the Gambling Act. The petition also stated that the accused persons’ reputations had been tarnished due to the media coverage, and the gambling laws were invoked against them ‘without legal or factual justification’.
The court, however, rejected the petitioners’ demand for a departmental inquiry against the errant officers. Justice Kanade said, “We understand that police are often under pressure from their superiors. We give them the benefit of the doubt.”
On August 10, 2011, 25 persons — Jaywant Sail (78), Vijay Gandhi (73), Govind Deshpande (75), Avinash Prabhu (63), Kishanlal Mistry (65), Vilii Wadia (72), Daulatrai Desai (72), Adrian Castelino (42), Bina Gharat (55), Manohar Saparia (40), Ashwin Parmar (47), Anil Dabholkar (41), Sanat Upadhyay (62), Tushar Merchant (62), Prakash Oza (52), Shirish Vinodchadra Shah (60), Pandurang Kangonkar (75), Deepak Dave (60), Shirish Purushottam Shah (57) and Sanjay Ghadigaonkar (44), along with five others — were arrested. They were escorted out and paraded before waiting OB vans of various news channels. “When they tried to reason with police, they were told they had orders from ‘the top’. The Gymkhana is a registered society and people have been playing card games there for the last 25 years,” said Advocate Amit Yadav, who represented the petitioners.
Interestingly, of the 25 arrested, police let off three persons on their own accord, who were also present in the card room. One Sanjay Narvekar, whose brother Pravin Narvekar was a police officer at Andheri police station, his friend Mohinder Singh, and Prithvi Mhaske had been let off by the cops. While the others were only released on bail at 6.00 am the next morning. Of the 22 persons arrested, 17 approached the High Court while five persons didn’t sign the petition.
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