Bombay HC orders independent inquiry into lawyer's arrest, handcuffing

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Mumbai, May 28 (PTI) The Bombay High Court has ordered an independent inquiry into an incident of a lawyer's arrest and his handcuffing last month by the Kharghar police in Navi Mumbai.

The lawyer, Vimal Jha, and a local lawyers' body had filed two pleas in the court, challenging such an arrest, stating that Jha had been detained illegally and produced before the magistrate's court in handcuffs.

A vacation bench of Justices S J Kathawala and S P Tavade passed an order on May 19 appointing principal district and sessions judge, Thane, R M Joshi, to head an inquiry into the incident.

The court's order was made available on its website on Friday.

The pleas filed by Jha and the organisation Lawyers for Just Society claimed that the former's arrest was illegal.

According to the petitioners, the Kharghar police had arrested Jha on the charges of kidnapping and extortion based on a complaint lodged by one of his clients.

The police had flouted norms of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and Supreme Court orders on Jha's arrest, producing him before a magistrate, handcuffing etc, the petitioners alleged.

The petitioners' counsel Subhash Jha and Prashant Pandey claimed that the lawyer was arrested on April 3, but produced before a magistrate only on April 5 and was handcuffed at the time.

The CrPC mandates that one is produced before a magistrate within 24 hours of his or her arrest, while the Supreme Court mandates that no accused must be handcuffed unless a magistrate's order is obtained for the same.

During the last hearing on May 17, the state's counsel, chief public prosecutor (CPP) Deepak Thakare had denied the allegations made by the petitioners.

Thakare had told the bench that Jha was arrested on April 4 and was produced before the magistrate court on April 5.

He later said that Jha was called to the police station on April 3, but an FIR was registered around 4 am on April 5 and he was arrested only after that.

When the bench asked Thakare for the CCTV footage from the concerned police station to confirm the same, he said the police station did not have CCTV cameras installed at the time of Jha's arrest.

CCTVs had been installed in the police station only on May 1 this year, the CPP said.

The court had taken a strong exception to Thakare's submissions.

Subsequently, the Kharghar police filed an affidavit in the High Court, offering an 'unconditional apology' to the court for any inadvertent errors, admitting that Jha had been handcuffed, and said a police inquiry would be initiated into the alleged incident.

The court, however, said the incident warranted an independent inquiry and appointed Judge Joshi to head the same.

It also directed the Kharghar police and the Maharashtra state CID to offer requisite attention to Judge Joshi in the inquiry.

The inquiry will look into, among other things, if Jha was detained illegally, whether the police were justified in handcuffing him, and when the CCTVs were installed at the concerned police station, it said.

The court directed Judge Joshi to complete the inquiry by June 15, the next date of hearing. PTI AYA ARU ARU