The Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission (MSHRC) recently ordered the payment of ₹2.5 lakh as compensation to a Nagpur-based advocate and her husband for police harassment. [Ankita Shah Makheja and Anr v. Commissioner of Police, Nagpur and Anr]
The case also prompted the Commission to direct the State’s Director General of Police (DGP) to hold periodical seminars to sensitize police officers.
In the present case, the dignity and honour of the complainants were violated by the police.
“There would not be any impediment in holding that the victims’ fundamental rights to live with honour and dignity have been blatantly violated by none other than the guardians of the law,” the Commission said.
Commission Member MA Sayeed also criticized the Nagpur Police Commissioner for not taking action against four errant police officers.
“For an effective and complete adjudication of this crucial issue, I would like to throw reflection on the factual background which unfortunately unfolds usual case of apathy, misuse of power by none other than the officers of law enforcing agency and what is more shocking and pinching to note is the fact that victim happens to be a member of legal fraternity, practicing in Nagpur,” the order stated.
Accordingly, the Commission directed the four errant police officers to jointly pay a compensation of ₹2,50,000 to the advocate and her husband within a period of six weeks.
It added the couple was at liberty to launch a criminal prosecution against the errant police officers as well.
Pertinently, the Commission noted that there was an alarming rise in such incidents at police stations.
Therefore, it asked the DGP, Maharashtra to initiate seminars periodically at all Commissionerates and Divisions for the sensitization of the police force, in order to focus on developing a sense of responsibility and courtesy in dealing with citizens and victims who look at them as protectors of law.
Nagpur-based lawyer Ankita Makheja and her husband Nilesh had moved the Commission through Advocate Rizwan Siddiquee, seeking action against police officials for illegal detention and harassment.
As per their application before the MSHRC, in March 2020, Ankita had approached the Lakadganj police station to register a complaint against her neighbour for pelting stones at a stray dog.
The couple alleged that instead of registering their complaint, the police illegally detained them and harassed them physically and mentally.
After the MSHRC was approached, a report was submitted by the Nagpur Police Commissioner admitting that the incident took place and stating that disciplinary action had been taken against the errant police officers. The Commission was informed that these officers were transferred from the concerned police station as well.
The Commission, however, questioned why criminal action was not initiated against the errant officers under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), particularly when the senior officer had concluded that there was misconduct on their part.
Meanwhile, the errant officers invoked Section 300 (person once convicted or acquitted not to be tried for the same offence) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) to argue that no further action should be taken against them since they had already faced departmental action.
The MSHRC, however, rejected this stance. Departmental action would not bar criminal prosecution, it ruled. Unless a person has been convicted or acquitted in a criminal offence, the question of double jeopardy would not arise, the Commission explained.