Saturday, November 07, 2009

How RTI exposed a Judge violating a Government rule...

and how the Judge had me taken to a Police Station for my daring to question it. Here is a gist of my experience yesterday, part of which was being detained at a Police Station for close to 4 hours. It is interesting on many fronts: The powers that Judges wield, how they cannot stand somebody questioning them, the way Police bend over backwards for Judiciary, how wonderfully supportive people like Sudha Madam, Nityanand and Ossie Fernandes and his whole team were, and how RTI exposed the the Judge's violation of the Government Rule.

On 6th Nov 2009, while going on bike along with my friend Bhaskar (who worked with me in Infosys and is now doing Health work in AID India), I saw a white Ambassador car with a red revolving light on it. While standing at the signal waiting for the green light, I asked the driver who this car belongs to and why a red light was there. I did not see that a judge was inside the car. I had asked these questions because I keep hearing about officials misusing this privilege by using it when they are not eligible for it. But since I asked these questions, the judge, who happens to be a Labour Court judge, S.F.Akbar got wild, and ordered his personal security officer to take me to a police station and register a complaint against me. So he promptly took me to a police station and filed a complaint. I was detained at the Police Station for 4 hours. From about 1.45 PM to 5.30 PM. Thanks to the terrific support of Ms.Sudha Ramalingam, a well known advocate and human rights activist in Chennai, Nityanand, Mr.Ossie Fernandes, Indra, Rajesh and Veni of Human Rights Federation, I was let off with a warning. Throughout my detention at the Police Station, I did not know who the judge was. After coming back to office, I googled for him a bit, and after checking with Sudha Madam and another advocate Mr.Krishnananth I confirmed that this judge was of the cadre of District Judge. As per the Goverment Letter(Page 1 and Page 2), which I had received under RTI, filed at the request of Sudha madam some time back, district judges are not eligible for revolving red lights. Only Judges of the high court were eligible for the red revolving light. Once I realised that the judge had been violating the rule, I immediately informed the media. Sudha madam also told Deccan Chronicle about this and I sent a copy of the Government Letter to my media contacts. Deccan Chronicle talked to the judge to get his view of the whole thing. Only when this reporter from DC cited the GO to him did the Judge seem to realise that he had been wrong. He seemed to have said that he did not know the rules, and that the vehicle was given to him by the High Court, and he has been using it as it was given. After the DC reporter talked to the Judge, the PSO who was the one who initially took me to the Police Station (and also called me a "mental" 3-4 times for my impertinence to ask questions) called me up and asked me why I went to the media on this. He also asked me why I was doing this to a senior Judge who will soon be promoted to the High Court. I told him that the Judge violated the rules and I was made to sit in the Police Station for 4 hours. He also asked me why I did not inform him before doing this. I told him that now that the information has reached the media, I cannot do anything now. The whole thing seemed to have shook the Judge up. Thanks to RTI, I could lay my hands on that letter. And thanks to RTI, I had the last laugh, though I had to spend 4 hours in a police station.

A more detailed narration will come up shortly. Meanwhile here are the news items on the incident. They are understandably (though not justifiably) not very critical of the violation of the Judge. Deccan Chronicle came closest to stating clearly that the Judge was wrong: "It seemed that the judge has ignored the order". It was thanks to Deccan Chronicle that the Judge learnt that what he did was wrong. The Hindu said that the incident did not have "News Value" and did not cover it :-)

Now as next steps, Sudha Madam has suggested that I prepare a narration of the events and we can submit it to the Chief Justice of the High Court, SHRC and NHRC. I will also file a complaint with the Police asking them to remove the red light on the Judge's car, as the PSO himself had admitted to it in his complaint against me at the Police Station.


Abhijit said...

Kudos to you and your Bravery. I hope you file a formal complain and make sure that the Judge and the Police Officials are dully punished for breaking the law.

It is sad that the media did not cover this act of bravery by a private citizen against the abusive system.

Please continue the good work.

Ethan Smith said...
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