RTI activist, cop in legal duel over torture claims
Activist files writ petition in High Court alleging cop stripped and assaulted him for 3 days in lock up; cop claims complainant is a blackmailer and extortionist in disguise
A Right To Information (RTI) activist, who also moonlights as a police informer, has filed a writ petition in the Bombay High Court against a police inspector last week, alleging that he detained, stripped, handcuffed and subjecting him to three days of merciless thrashing for no known reason in October 2011.
Reacting to Vinod Raghunath Sonkamble’s (38) allegations, Inspector Vinayak Vast of the Crime Branch Unit VII claims that the activist is involved in criminal activities, including posing as a police official, blackmailing hawkers, extortion and robbery.
Sonkamble is a resident of Valmiki Nagar, Ghatkopar (west) and is a civil repair contractor by profession. He alleges that Vast only allowed him to go after he swore never to file any RTI applications in the future.
According to Sonkamble’s petition (copy available with MiD DAY), at around 5 pm on October 10, 2011, some policemen picked him up in a private vehicle and took him to the Crime Branch Unit VII office at Ghatkopar. He was stripped and detained in the lock up and thereafter subjected to bouts of beatings for three days.
“All the staff present beat me with belts and other things and then Vast directed them to remove my clothes and he also used a belt on me. The beatings were spread over almost three days, but I am still unaware of what my crime is to deserve such treatment,” said Sonkamble.
He was released after three days, but was directed to show up at the unit office on October 13, 14 and 15, 2011. Even when he did as he was told, he alleges that he was abused and roughed up on each visit, and even asked to clean the unit office as Diwali was approaching.
Vast then warned him never again to file an RTI application and released him only after he promised to abide by the alleged order.
After his claimed ordeal, Sonkamble complained to several police officials and even to Home Minister RR Patil about Vast and his staff. When he saw no justice coming his way, he attempted suicide by consuming sleeping pills in Patil’s office on October 17, 2011. He was then arrested by the Marine Drive police on charges of attempted suicide and released on bail.
Since then, he has been running from pillar to post to see justice served. Last week, Sonkamble filed a writ petition in the Bombay High Court through criminal lawyer Ashok Saraogi.
“Some police officers were forcing to me to withdraw the complaint and settle the matter, which I refused. Fearing any other action in future, I filed a writ petition in the Bombay High Court,” Sonkamble said.
The other side
“We have received a copy of the petition and will file our say shortly. He is a blackmailer. He has filed a petition to stop police action against him. He files RTIs and extorts money. He also extorts money from hawkers. We have proof that he has robbed several persons while posing as a policeman,” said Police Inspector Vinayak Vast of the Crime Branch Unit VII.