Suspend, arrest, assault the critics
Apart from videos, the deposition of Dr Sudhakar to Magistrate revealed how he was threatened, harassed, beaten and abused by the police of Visakhapatnam district
Apart from videos, the deposition of Dr Sudhakar to Magistrate revealed how he was threatened, harassed, beaten and abused by the police of Visakhapatnam district.
Deposition and photos showed that suspended Doctor had six injuries. The photographs were part of the deposition and report of the Visakhapatnam Magistrate.
Andhra Pradesh is at the centre-stage of ridicule and criticism for its brazen breach of human rights towards two persons - Dr Sudhakar, a government doctor and P Ranganayaki, a senior citizen in two separate episodes.
It is an attack on their freedom of expression. Doctor Sudhakar is government's anaesthetist who was suspended just for asking for sufficient number of PPEs and Masks to fight coronavirus.
Trauma of the doctor began when he asked: "Where are sufficient PPE kits, where are masks for doctors to treat coronavirus patients? We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month."
He alleged that the government was giving N95 masks and PPEs meant for doctors to politicians and the police. The Government Civil Surgeon (anaesthetist) with 20 years of experience in Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Visakhapatnam district, Dr Sudhakar was immediately suspended from service.
And after a few days, on complaint of nuisance, half a dozen police manhandled him in public on road, tied back his hands, beat him with lathis, made to lay on the road in the daylight, four policemen dragged him into an auto-rikshaw like an animal.
It is certainly not possible to agree with the abuses that an inebriated doctor hurled against the Chief Minister and two religions Christianity and Islam. But that does not give any authority to police to drag him on to roads.
The Bench of Justice Rakesh Kumar and Justice K Suresh Reddy of Andhra Pradesh High Court responded to two PILs against this atrocity on the government doctor and asked Visakhapatnam Judge to give a report, based on which, the case was given to the CBI, on May 22.
The police showed a certificate issued by a doctor about single injury, based on which top officer of AP filed an affidavit. Whereas the Vishakhapatnam District Judicial Officer, who examined Dr Sudhakar on directions from the AP High Court found six injuries on that doctor.
After watching those photos of injuries, the Bench questioned the contradiction. They asked, "Should we not believe the photos sent by the Magistrate?" Then the HC did not believe the government reports.
It is reported that in the deposition, he stated as follows: "When the RDO came to our Narsipatnam Area Hospital, I have requested for masks. But the RDO explained that since anaesthetist does not treat coronavirus patients, no need for masks. On April 6, I have asked for N95 masks as we were asked to treat corona patients.
Pharmacist gave just one mask and asked us to use it for fifteen days. I have recorded video within the hospital to explain the problems of doctors and health staff in operation theatres and other places in dealing with patients without mask to show it to them on my mobile.
Then I went to the chairman of Area Hospital Committee, Mr Ganesh, MLA. Finding that he went to Municipal Office, I went there, waited for him, but failed to meet him. I tried to meet former committee Chairman Ayyanna Patrudu, but I could not meet him also. Again, I reached Municipal Office, where I found MLA, RDO and Additional SP, who were wearing N95 masks.
There I requested for masks for the use of doctors. Then they abused me. There after, my family members and I received many threats and abusive calls. On April 8 morning I was handed over the suspension order through an ambulance driver.
On May 20 two unidentified people seized my son's two-wheeler. I went to 4th Town Police Station. A woman police constable held my hand and cried asking me to leave her hand.
Then police started beating me. They threatened to slap a false case to get me dismissed. On May 16 two constables followed my car and when I stopped, they entered into an altercation on my suspension issue.
They took my ATM card, car keys, and purse. Made me half naked, beat me up with their hands, shoes and lathis. I came to know that they took Rs 10 lakh and planted 3 whiskey bottles in front seat of my car. They tried to project me as alcohol addict and insane.
They took me to 4th Town Police Station, tied my hands on my back, threw on the floor for two hours…"
Kaveri Bai, mother of Dr Sudhakar felt relieved after case was given to CBI. She said: "My son rendered flawless services for the last two decades. He was suspended because he asked for masks.
The government machinery is falsely showing Dr Sudhakar as an insane person. They conspired and calling him alcoholic and insane.
Only the CBI and courts should do justice to my son." First the police alleged that Dr Sudhakar was inebriated, and medical tests could be conducted only after alcoholic influence is reduced in ten or twelve hours.
Then within hours the mental hospital certifies that Sudhakar was suffering from acute and transient psychosis. Medical experts say that they need at least 48 hours to ascertain such psychological issues. Mother asked, can we believe these Government Doctors?
Does seeking masks amount to indiscipline? Will government doctors who gave false certificate be prosecuted? Will the government take action against the police for inhuman assault against him?
Another infamous incident is slapping of false cases against an ordinary woman P Ranganayaki (60).
The Guntur police have indiscriminately charged her under IPC Section 505(2) (making statements leading to public mischief), 153A (Promoting enmity between two groups), Section 188 (disobedience to order promulgated by a public servant), 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and Section 67 (spreading obscene material) of the Information Technology Act.
In fact, in her facebook posting, she shared a criticism by someone else against the way the scene of leakage of poisonous gas in LG Polymers was damaged and the hazardous chemical stocks of Styrene were hurriedly shifted from the site through special ships wielding high influence.
Surprisingly, for the Guntur police, it is obscene matter that can invoke Section 67 of Information Technology Act.
The Jagan Mohan Reddy government should organise urgent training of doctors and police about minimum aspects of law and human rights immediately, to prevent further disreputation and serial defeats in High Court.
Another ridiculous allegation by Guntur police is that she committed offence of mischief under Section 505(2) which punishes circulation of rumours, raise false alarm etc. that can induce someone to commit an offence against the State or against public tranquillity.
Such offenders shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years or with fine or with both. A factory is allowed to work without any permission that resulted in serious environment crime, which is being charged for homicide. At the same time, the Guntur CID thinks that Ranganayaki's comment will cause an offence.
They found a new use of old Section 188 of IPC, and immediately slapped it against her. Section 188 can be invoked only when two essentials are fulfilled – one, there should be a direction from a public authority, two, that should have been deliberately disobeyed.
The police are yet to spell out which authority gave what order and how this woman breached it. Section 188 read with an order issued under Disaster Management Act or Epidemic Disease Act could be used for any act related to Covid-19 like pandemic activity. Unfortunately, the Guntur police did not hesitate to abuse it against criticism.
Fourth penal provision that was abused by the police is Section 153A of IPC can be invoked only when a hate religious speech is capable of causing clashes between classes. None of the four sections are relevant against Ranganayaki's criticism. She was arrested and released on bail.
In fact, both these accused have right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of Indian Constitution, which police and the prosecutors might surely know.
This constitutional right includes right to criticise the government machinery and LG Polymers who killed 12 people and played havoc with environment and hundreds of poor around the illegal factory.
(The writer is former Central Information Commissioner and Professor at Bennett University)