PIL earns little interest from HC, but costs Mumbai businessman Rs 5 lakh

Petitioner now appeals Supreme Court against the HC ruling

geetanjali

Geetanjali Minhas | June 24, 2010


Goldie Sud
Goldie Sud

Here is a businessman, who went to court with a public interest litigation – relating to Mumbai Police and the safety of the common man – but all he got from the court was punishment, of Rs five lakh, for filing a “frivolous” plea. He, however, has full faith in his cause and is approaching the Supreme Court with the same plea.

Goldie Purshottam Sud, a Mumbai-based businessman, last year approached the Bombay High Court, contending that top Maharashtra government officials, including the director-general of police and the chief secretary, had failed to protect citizens from the 26/11 terrorists and action should be taken against them.

But in April this year, the court imposed Rs 5 lakh as cost on Sud for filing the “frivolous” PIL. It said the petition had no “foundation or basis” and amounted to “abuse of the process of court.”

His reaction? “Each and every petition that is dismissed in the courts is obviously frivolous. Does that means it requires this kind of costs?” The high court could have fined him Rs 5,000 or Rs 10,000 and let him off instead slapping him with a Rs 5 lakh fine, he feels.

Asked if he had anticipated this from the high court, Sud says if he had any inkling, he obviously wouldn’t have moved his petition.

Sud has now appealed to the Supreme Court – not for reducing or waiving the penalty but for strict action against the police officers, especially of the IPS cadre, whose willful neglect of duty despite the police commissioners’ instructions lead to loss of 170 human lives.

“I cannot argue with court and I have accepted the order. If the Supreme Court too thinks I am wrong, and my petition is frivolous, I could be facing amplified punishment. I am prepared to take the risk for I  have conviction in the cause.

“I think I can do this much at least for the 170 people who lost their lives. My cause is stronger than the police’s commitment to society. I am not asking the court for waiver of penalty, I am asking for an inquiry,” says Sud, 44, who is international trade consultant/merchant and real estate dealer by profession.

His starting point was a media interview in which former commissioner of police Hasan Gafoor alleged that four police officers had hesitated to respond at the time of the 26/11 terror attacks of 2008. 

Gafoor's comments left Sud and 37 others anguished who together signed a PIL and  filed it in the  high court, seeking an inquiry in the matter. As the rules did not support 37 names, the additional names were withdrawn.

“We were under the belief that police did their duty and terrorists’ blasts just left them helpless. Later when the news broke that the police officers (K L Prasad, Parambir Singh, Deven Bharti, and K Venkateshan) were held guilty of dereliction of duty we had enough reasons to question the police force,” says Sud.

Sud in his petition maintained, “these officers have committed an act of culpable homicide not amounting to murder under sections 304 and 304 (a) of the Indian Penal Code, so they should be sent  to for trial.” He also alleged that the officers were being protected by politicians.

“When  you run over a pedestrian you are caught within 10-15 minutes. What about these police officers, who ran away from the firing range at the Colaba and Azad Maidan police stations during the 26/11 attacks?  The police officers behave like constables. There is no intelligence system in place.

“The Pradhan Committee report (on 26/11) said that the cops were on the job at 11.30 pm. In that case where were they for one and a half hour before that – when the attacks started? Where were the additional commissioners of police during the combat? Why were they at the police headquarters at that time?  When the report has indicted A N Roy, why is no action taken against him? Why was he reappointed DGP Maharashtra? He exceeded his brief during the 26/11 terror attacks, when it was Hasan Gafoor’s job as police commissioner to give commands. What are the state and police doing?” Sud asks.

“Our complaints to the Mantralaya are gathering dust. Deserving police officers are overlooked for important postings. The ministers who had resigned in the aftermath of 26/11 have been reinstated. This is a mockery of administration. It is deplorable when the report says that Deven Bharati left the scene of firing to be at some other place, which means that he went away from the firing range. If policemen don’t obey their seniors' commands then at whose mercy we citizens are left?

“If the cops operate without a strategy, standard operating procedures and  intelligence applications, and behave like watchmen running helter-skelter instead of putting up a fight against terrorists, then whose mercy are we left at?” questions a disgruntled Sud.

He points out that anyone visiting the Colaba police station, just 20 steps away from Leopold Café  from where the attacks started, can see that the cops there have semi-automatic rifles, but according to them, “they had outdated weapons.”

Sud and his associates, who all were born and brought up in Mumbai, have seen a different Mumbai. “Earlier we would look up to the police and officers like Julio Ribeiro. We were never scared of police as they were never atrocious. But now, it has become routine to hear of police misdeeds. The terrorist attacks left us aghast.

“I feel afraid for my personal safety in the environment. We are becoming a police state by the day. In our country, people used to have faith in police whereas now they are scared of them. We have become an insecure society. We just don’t know what will happen,” he says.

 

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