The Telangana High Court was hearing a plea that the police had resorted to 'excesses' during the COVID-19 lockdown in Hyderabad.

Personnel of the Hyderabad policeFile photo: Picxy
news Court Thursday, June 18, 2020 - 10:12

Can lathis 'check' for coronavirus on vehicles? As bizarre as the claim sounds, this was one of the justifications made by the Hyderabad police in its submission to the Telangana High Court, which sought a response on allegations of high-handedness by its personnel.

A bench comprising Chief Justice RS Chauhan and Justice B Vijaysen Reddy was hearing a petition filed by one Sheela Sarah Mathews, who had alleged that the police were resorting to 'excesses' during the COVID-19 lockdown in Hyderabad, by unnecessarily beating people up. 

The petition highlighted several incidents, and in their response, the police defended their stand.

Hyderabad Police Commissioner Anjani Kumar in his counter-affidavit claimed that one Mohd Asgar who alleged that he was assaulted by the police, "fell down while he was running away after noticing police personnel approaching his area."

In another case, the petitioner mentioned the case of one Khaleem who was allegedly beaten up by the police. The police claimed that he too, ran from them when they approached him and "fell into a manhole, thereby sustaining a fracture on his right leg." 

Though the police claimed that he was shifted to the Osmania General Hospital (OGH), the petitioner's counsel pointed out that there was no medical report attached in the counter-affidavit. 

In another case, the police claimed that a person with physical disabilities who was allegedly assaulted was 'a regular violator of the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act and had 13 traffic challans pending against him.' However, the copy of the challans were not part of the response submitted in court.

But perhaps the most bizarre response of the police was over allegations that its personnel from the Falaknuma Police Station had damaged vehicles parked outside homes in a residential area.

In his response, Anjani Kumar said that "the police had checked the vehicles using police lathis in order to see whether coronavirus was present or not."

"This explanation by the police is indeed surprising. In order to check the presence of coronavirus, there is no need to use lathis. Therefore, the complete report, with regard to the alleged incident, needs to be submitted by the police before this court," the Bench observed.

In another case, a policeman from the Golconda Police Station was alleged to have thrashed Junaid, a social activist who was distributing food to migrant workers during the lockdown, who had later needed 35 stitches on his face and also suffered a hairline fracture. 

The police claimed that the man was intercepted by them as he was driving without a mask and a helmet following which an altercation took place. The police said that the lathi of the policeman 'accidentally' hit the man's spectacles, which resulted in a bleeding injury in his right eye.

"Obviously, a single injury to the right eye cannot cause an injury requiring 35 stitches and a hairline fracture. Thus, it is obvious that the correct facts have not been mentioned in the counter-affidavit," the court observed.

The court also observed many victims of police brutalities belonged to the Muslim community. “Does it mean that there are no violators from other communities?” the bench was quoted as saying.

Observing that the police approach against the Muslims was high handed, the court pointed out the 'Black Lives Matter' protest across the United States against police brutality.

Seeking details on the progress made into departmental enquiries initiated against its own personnel, the court asked the police to file a report by June 29 and posted the matter for further hearing. 

Besides Anjani Kumar, notices were also issued to the Principal Secretary (Home) and the Director-General of Police.

Read: A timeline of alleged police brutality in Telangana amid the COVID-19 lockdown

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