Saturday, November 03, 2007

Such is this country that this could happen to you

City techie spent 50 days in jail
Ketan Tanna | TNN

Mumbai: Early on Aug 31, Lakshmana Kailash K was asleep in his home in Bangalore. He was woken up by eight policemen from Pune who came knocking on his door and waved the Information Technology Act, 2000, in his face. Get dressed, he was told, we are taking you to Pune for having defamed Shivaji.
Lakshmana protested he didn’t know anyone called Shivaji. The policemen said they were talking about Chhatrapati Shivaji, and that an insulting picture of him had been uploaded on the networking site Orkut. The cyber trail had led them to his computer in Bangalore.
Turning a deaf ear to his protests, the police took him to Pune and put him behind bars. Finally, on October 20, after spending 50 days with 200 undertrials at Yerawada Jail, Lakshmana was released. Sorry, said the police, the IP address given to us was wrong.
In the jail, Lakshmana tried initially to be brave. But he cracked when he was made to pose for a photograph with a black slate carrying his father’s name and his alleged crime. “It hurt me a lot that my father, who is a retired banker in Tirunelveli, was being associated with a crime. I just broke down,’’ he says.
“We were given a vaati (bowl) from which we had to eat and drink and even take to the toilet. The long queues for filling water in the vati was our survival routine,’’ says Lakshmana. The three-in-one bowl system hit him hard: his health deteriorated rapidly. “Because of depression and the bad food, I lost 12 kilos,’’ he says.
He’s back home now trying to put it all behind him. HCL has been supportive but Lakshmana is not sure whether his job still exists. “I have forgotten coding. I need to start all over again,’’ he says.
Times View
This is a shocking case. The police can’t get away with an apology after wrongly putting Lakshmana Kailash in jail for 50 days on the basis of a “mistake’’. The cops may argue they acted in good faith and error was made by telecom firm. But wasn’t the mistake compounded because of poor policework? It is because of police sloppiness — or is it arrogance? — that the youngster has suffered this nightmare. The law doesn’t allow for suing the police for such mistakes. The law must be changed so that people like Lakshmana can get compensation for being wronged. Cops: We made a mistake, so what?
Mumbai: Lakshmana Kailash K, the HCL employee who was wrongly imprisoned for 50 days on charges of posting hate literature on Chhatrapati Shivaji, is very philosophical about all that happened to him. Asked if he planned to sue for compensation, he said, “My family is considering it. Right now, I’m just beginning to appreciate the small things in life. It’s good to have a toilet to oneself. It’s good to have clean drinking water. It’s good to have family to quarrel with.’’
Along the way, the 26-year-old Lakshmana learnt that what he was being arrested for a case that had triggered riots in Pune in November 2006. Political parties had forcibly closed cafes and gone on the rampage over the posting of the illustration which had poked fun at Shivaji. New to the ways of cyber crime, the police took over ten months to trace the alleged source. Google, which owns Orkut, had cooperated with them but the vital IP address was provided by the service provider Bharti (Airtel). Bharti said the IP address belonged to a Lakshmana K who lived in a Bangalore apartment with friends.
His first bail plea was rejected. To add insult to injury, the police released Laskshmana nearly three weeks after they claimed to have picked up the “real culprits’’ on October 3 — three Bangalore boys from Koramangala, all in judicial custody. Asked about the earlier arrest, assistant commissioner Netaji Shinde says, “Yes, we made a mistake. So what?’’
Bharti was a little more contrite but made no mention of compensation. “We are in touch with the customer. We have robust internal processes which we review frequently to make them more stringent,’’ said Airtel in a written response to TOI.
Lakshmana’s ordeal has uncanny resonances of Kafka’s The Trial, more so because his name has the same initial ‘K’ as Kafka’s hapless protagonist. K is arrested one morning before breakfast on a non-charge and is left to battle the state’s mindless might.
Lakshmana was charged under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code for a deliberate and malicious act intended to outrage religious feelings, and Section 67 of the Information Technology Act for publishing ‘lascivious’ material or material that ‘appeals to the prurient interest’. The latter charge carries a punishment of five years’ jail and gives the police the right to search cyber cafes and residences without a warrant.
Like Kafka’s K, two days after he returned to Bangalore, Airtel got in touch. But it wasn’t about the arrest. They sent him a text message reminding him to pay his bill. The text message was followed up by a visit from a collection agent. “I told them it’s all because of you that I haven’t paid,’’ says Lakshmana. “We can’t pay bills from jail.”
The arrest of Bangalore’s IT pro for an alleged hate crime is truly Kafkaesque: a trial which he knew not, a ‘crime’ he wasn’t even aware of


At Saturday, November 3, 2007 at 2:17:00 PM GMT+5:30, Anonymous Anonymous said...

govt. must take action against errant police and airtel responsible for this incident !!

At Saturday, November 10, 2007 at 1:46:00 PM GMT+5:30, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let this absurd IT act be removed and new law be placed. Being an advocate, I know so many false cases being booked under this act, just for harassment and revenge.

At Monday, January 14, 2008 at 2:24:00 PM GMT+5:30, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What angers me is the comment of the policemen who says 'We made a mistake, so what" !! I agree that everone can make a mistake. But the attitude of the police to add in a 'so what' is appaling. Police work under pressure we understand, but they have this attitude when some one is powerless against them , whilst 90 % of them are ready to lick the boots of politicians and powerful people....

At Monday, January 14, 2008 at 3:14:00 PM GMT+5:30, Blogger Khan Md Ashraf said...

I subscribe to Airtel services. Of late I have been unhappy about the technical competence of their staff. Now this incident proves that they are totally incompetent and can land you in big trouble for no reason at all. Also I am now concerned at the rising intolerance of Indians against other Indians. We are a free and democratic country founded on the foundation of free speech. Intolerance is giving rise to increasing incidents of injustice. Nobody can be termed guilty until proved to be so. Neither can injustice be condoned. I hope the legal system in our country will take severe action against all those who were involved in committing this heinous 'mistake' an extreme injustice without doubt.

At Tuesday, January 15, 2008 at 3:15:00 AM GMT+5:30, Blogger Prakash G said...

Even if he posts about Shivaji. Whats Wrong ?. I thought India has "Freedom of Speech". Just realized it is only in the papers.

At Tuesday, May 20, 2008 at 12:07:00 PM GMT+5:30, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm shocked that for such flimsy reasons a citizen can be arrested and denied bail. This is worse than China where you would know and expect such things to happen and therefore be mentally prepared. If some political goons decide to riot does it become ok for police to arrest people to satisfy them? I feel sorry for the three Bangloreans now arrested for the same so called crime - what are we as citizens doing to get them released? We could be in their shoes too - this is not about Airtel's mistake - the bigger issue is arresting people for nonsensical issues.


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