The Bombay High Court yesterday awarded compensation of Rs 6 lakh to a 78-year-old woman and her 58-year-old son for their illegal detention last year. The two were ‘misled’ by the Vashi police and the woman illegally detained for several days, after she threatened to commit suicide when her grievances against her grandchildren were not investigated by the police. The grandchildren, who are ‘influential’, have been trying to usurp her property for some time now.
The petitioner Mohini Kamwani, a widow, hails from Vashi, where she takes care of her mentally handicapped daughter, Kanta. Her son Dilip left his job in Dubai to take care of his aging mother. Her other daughter, Sunti, from whom Mohini is estranged, is married with three sons.
In her petition, Mohini alleged that in 2010, one of the grandsons Manoj tried to forcibly obtain her signatures to usurp her property. On December 24, 2010, Mohini approached the Vashi police station to lodge an FIR against Manoj. Instead, the police registered a non-cognisable complaint. The case was closed after police concluded the matter to be of a ‘civil’ nature.
Encouraged by the police apathy, the grandsons allegedly began to demand ownership of her flat. Mohini wrote to the Chief Minister on November 11, 2011, declaring that she would go on a hunger strike from December 26, if no action was taken against her kin. She approached the Azad Maidan police, asking for permission to fast in the Azad Maidan grounds. The police promised to look into all her complaints if she agreed not to go on a fast. Mohini acquiesced.
On January 2, 2012, Mohini once again turned up at the door of the Azad Maidan police station, requesting permission to go on a ‘peaceful protest hunger strike’ on January 16. “The police told my mother that no cognisance would be taken of her complaints if she didn’t threaten to kill herself,” Dilip claimed. Accordingly, Mohini addressed a letter to the Bombay High Court threatening to commit suicide on January 18, 2012. The police once again promised to look into her complaint. She called off her decision to commit suicide in writing, but continued the hunger strike.
Misled and arrested
On the morning of January 25, 2012, a police officer from the Vashi police station turned up at her doorstep, asking her to accompany him to the police station to finally lodge an FIR against her grandsons. She was requested to bring along her son, Dilip.
After a long wait they were taken to court. Before they realised what was happening, the mother-son duo were produced before the Magistrate and placed in ‘preventive custody’, for attempting suicide. At the hearing, the court recorded, “It appears that the principal reason for arrest of the petitioners was an email to the police officer intimating that on January 26, 2012 [they] would commit suicide by self immolation either in front of Mantralaya or in front of the official residence of the chief minister.”
The High Court, though, noted that the remand application did not contain any mention of Mohini’s letter, stating she no longer wished to commit suicide. The court observed that Supreme Court guidelines had been flouted, and ordered police to fork out Rs 3 lakh each in compensation for illegally detaining them.
While Mohini and Dilip have been awarded compensation of Rs 6 lakh, several senior citizens who had been illegally detained two years ago, are yet to receive the meagre Rs 1,000 as compensation that is owed to each of them, as per the order passed by a division bench last year. They had been arrested after a raid in the card room of Andheri Gymkhana in 2011. A reminder sent two months ago over the reparation elicited no response. The petitioners are now likely to move a contempt petition against the government, for not paying them their dues.