Mumbai: 12 years a slave to injustice at the hands of crooked cop
Mira Road resident continues to suffer consequences of an alleged false case slapped on him by the very cop he had gone to for justice over a decade ago
Justice delayed is justice denied. The old adage has come true in the case of Premkumar Batham, 58, who has been fighting to clear his name of an alleged false case that was registered against him by a cop way back in 2006. Over 12 years on, he continues to suffer the consequences — he lost his business, languished in jail, suffered public humiliation and declining mental health, and is now battling Parkinson's disease (PD) and a cardiac ailment along with the still ongoing trial in court.
The Mira Road resident could have had justice four years ago, when the Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission (MSHRC) found discrepancies in the case and ruled in his favour, directing the state government to pay a compensation of Rs 75,000. The money was to be deducted from the errant police officer Suresh Patil, who was found guilty of violating Premkumar's human rights. Although the cheque was to be issued within two months, the elderly gentleman only received a cheque last year, and even then, he had to return it. Why? Because the name on the cheque was not his but his brother's.
Miscarriage of justice
Ironically, it was for justice that Premkumar had approached officer Patil, who was then an inspector at Bhoiwada police station. On September 18, 2006, Premkumar had gone to lodge a complaint against brothers Umesh and Nilesh Gawli, who had seized his cab and claimed it as their own. The inspector did not register his complaint, despite a directive from the DCP to do so. Instead, in connivance with the Gawli brothers, the cop arrested Premkumar after registering an FIR against him under Sections 468, 471, 420 and 182 (forgery, cheating, and misleading public servant) of the IPC. Premkumar remained in police lock-up and then in jail for a total of 12 days, until his daughters — aged 11 and 15 at the time — put together enough money for bail and a lawyer.
Family is scarred
Premkumar's daughter Damini, who works with a travel agency in the western suburbs, recalled, "We spent most of our days weeping. We didn't have any money in hand to pay the lawyer's fees. We broke out our savings in the piggy bank to pay the lawyer Rs 2,580, and get our father out on bail. My father is not a cheater, we want justice. He has suffered a lot, and so have we."
She added, "Post this incident, my father started living in fear. He lost his taxi business and went through a financial crisis. We were taunted in our locality; those who once addressed my father as Prem Sheth, started taunting us and calling us all sort of names. My father fell into depression and had to undergo psychiatric treatment. He graduated to other health ailments like Parkinson's and cardiac issues. To this day, after all these years, he still has to go every month to Bhoiwada magistrate court, where the case trial is underway."
Meanwhile, the cop got several promotions and is now at a senior rank, claims the family. Damini said they felt further betrayed when, after fighting for eight years, they got the wrong cheque in compensation. "The worst moment was when the MSHRC finally ruled in our favour, and the compensation cheque arrived, and we were shocked to see it bore my uncle's name. We had to return the cheque to the government for the necessary changes, but we never got it back," she said.
The only ray of hope is to seek justice from the Bombay High Court, where Premkumar's lawyer, Advocate Rajeshwar Panchal, is pursuing a criminal writ petition, seeking higher compensation and stringent action against the errant officer — a recommendation made by the MSHRC and ignored by the state. "A compensation of Rs 75,000 is meagre in a fake case that resulted in the victim's arrest and incarceration. It doesn't send a strong signal to the police machinery, which is often found to misuse its power to harass innocents," said the lawyer.
"We have come across recent judgments where the Bombay High Court has granted compensation ranging between Rs 2 lakh to Rs 3 lakh for each day of illegal detention. Therefore, we hope we will get the appropriate and reasonable amount of compensation that will deter the police machinery from indulging in similar actions in the future. We are also going to request the HC to quash the false case, based on the observations of the MSHRC in 2014," the lawyer added.
No. of days Premkumar was in jail
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