New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday directed the Madhya Pradesh government to pay Rs 10 lakh compensation to an NRI doctor and her septuagenarian mother, a practising lawyer in Pune, Maharashtra, for unlawfully arresting them.
The court ordered the Madhya Pradesh government to pay the compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to Rini Johar and her mother Gulshan Johar in three months' time.
Rini is a doctor pursuing higher studies in the US and attached to a company in the US. Her mother Gulshan is a lawyer, practising in Pune district court for the last 36 years.
Their saga began when one person, Vikram Rajput, purchased an imaging instrument and a laptop computer from Rini. He made a payment of Rs 250,000 for this. However, Vikram later alleged that the gadgets were defective. He subsequently filed a complaint with the police in Bhopal.
The Cyber Cell of the Madhya Pradesh police then went to Pune and arrested Rini and her mother.
Directing compensation to the victims, an apex court bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Shiva Kirti in their judgement said "the investigating officers in no circumstances can flout the law with brazen proclivity and in such a situation a constitutional court taking note of suffering and humiliation (of the petitioners) are entitled to grant compensation."
The court said: "On a perusal of the FIR, it is clear to us that the dispute is purely of a civil nature, but a maladroit effort has been made to give it a criminal colour."
Pointing out that the officers of the state police had played with the liberty of mother and daughter, the Supreme Court bench said: "There has been violation of Article 21 and the petitioners (Johars) were compelled to face humiliation. They have been treated with an attitude of insensibility."
The court said that not only there was violation of the guidelines issued by the apex court on handling of such matters by the police, but "there was also flagrant violation of mandate of law enshrined under Section 41 and Section 41-A of the CrPC".
An inquiry was held after both mother and daughter in a complaint to the Lokayukta Police (Madhya Pradesh Special Police Establishment) alleged that they paid Rs 5 lakh in two instalments of Rs 250,000 each as demanded by the Deputy Superintendent of Police, Cyber Cell, for their release.
Referring to the report of inquiry by the state which pointed to the illegalities in the arrest of the Johars, the court said: "In such a situation, we are inclined to think that the dignity of the petitioners, a doctor and a practising advocate, has been seriously jeopardised."
The court said: "It is clear that liberty of the petitioners was curtailed in violation of the law. The freedom of an individual has its sanctity."
For curtailment of liberty, requisite norms are to be followed, the court said, underlining that "fidelity to statutory safeguards instil faith of the collective in the system".
The court said: "It does not require wisdom of a seer to visualise that for some invisible reason an attempt has been made to corrode the procedural safeguards which are meant to sustain the sanguinity of liberty."