Three months after a Betul-based advocate was allegedly thrashed by Madhya Pradesh Police 'after being mistaken for being a Muslim', the police registered a case against the lawyer on 18 June.
While the lawyer, Deepak Bundele, is still trying to get an FIR registered against the policemen, MP Police has booked him under under Section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) and 294 (punishment for obscene acts and songs in any public place) of the Indian Penal Code at Betul's kotwali police station.
Deepak Bundele was allegedly beaten up on 23 March while he was enroute to a hospital for treatment.
Bundele, who has been a diabetic and blood pressure patient for more than a decade, received multiple injuries and his ears bled for days after the incident. He filed a complaint at the same police station and sent a copy of it to the office of the Betul Superintendent of Police. His FIR is yet to be registered.
In the case registered against Bundele, the police has relied on three police witnesses who belong to the right-wing group Hindu Sena.
MP Police Says Bundele Abused and Bullied Them
After the police had failed to file an FIR despite his complaint, Bundele approached the Jabalpur bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court on June 9. When summoned by court, the police said Bundele was out without a mask when Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code had been imposed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The police went on to say that when they stopped him, Bundele started abusing them. They also claim that he tried to bully them by saying that he was a senior advocate at the Madhya Pradesh High Court.
The police told the court that CCTV footage of the incident had been deleted as the police only keep a record of one month footage and it had been three months since the incident.
However the police failed to clarify why they denied sharing the CCTV footage with the victim, who had sought access to it through the Right to Information Act a week after the incident.
To back their claims, the police have relied on three eyewitness who belong to Hindu Sena. According to their hand-written testimonies, accessed by The Quint and submitted in court, they have identified themselves to be members of this group.
'Police Demoralising and Threatening Me'
Reacting to the escalating issue, Bundele said, “With the help of lies and fake witnesses the police are trying to demoralise and threaten me. They are doing this because they failed to convince me to withdraw my case against them.”
On 17 May, two policemen had met Bundele to get him to withdraw his complaint. One of the two was assistant sub-inspector BS Patel. They told him he was assaulted because they had mistaken his identity. Since he was sporting a long beard, the cops said they thought he was a Muslim and assaulted him. He claims that they also threatened him, "They said that if I do not take my complaint back, they will file a false case against me."
After the audio recording of the meeting went viral, Madhya Pradesh Police suspended Patel and apologised for his remarks.
Reacting to the police’s claim of not having CCTV footage, Bundele said, “The cops first refused the CCTV footage to me and later deleted the footage intentionally because it will expose the police’s lies in the court. To back their lies the police has also come up with false witnesses who are from the Hindu Sena. However, I believe that the truth will prevail in court,” he said.
What Happened in Court on 30 June
There was a hearing on the case in court on 30 June where the judge asked MP Police's lawyer to present the CCTV footage of the incident.
Speaking about the hearing to The Quint, Supreme Court advocate Ehtesham Hashmi said, “The judge has not only asked the police's lawyer to produce the CCTV footage of the 23 March incident within a week, but also the statements of all parties involved."
The next hearing of the case is listed for 9 June.
(With inputs from Shadab Moizee)
(Kashif Kakvi is a Bhopal-based freelance journalist. He can be reached @KashifKakvi.)
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