Published on: 11 September 2023 at 18:22 IST
The has expressed serious concerns regarding an incident involving two constables from the Ahmedabad Traffic Police who allegedly extorted ₹60,000 from a couple traveling late at night.
In what is being treated as a suo motu public interest litigation (PIL) petition, the Court highlighted the distressing situation where those responsible for safeguarding the public had themselves become perpetrators of a crime.
A division bench comprising Chief Justice Sunita Agarwal and Justice Aniruddha Mayee voiced these concerns, emphasizing the need for immediate action. The incident was initially reported by the Ahmedabad Mirror, leading to the Court taking suo motu cognizance.
According to the report, the couple was intercepted by the police as part of a routine check following a car accident on the Iskcon Flyover. Allegedly, the officers then took the couple to an isolated location and demanded a sum of ₹2 lakh to release them but eventually agreed to accept ₹60,000.
The situation escalated further when the officers not only occupied the couple’s vehicle but also prevented the woman from breastfeeding her 1-year-old child.
Senior Advocate Manisha Luvkumar-Shah presented an action taken report, as directed by the Court on August 29, stating that the two constables had been arrested under the Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act and Indian Penal Code (IPC) provisions.
The State had initiated a departmental inquiry against the duo, and a temporary employee had been suspended.
Senior Advocate Shalin Mehta, assisting the Court in this matter, suggested that women constables should be included in patrolling teams, especially during nighttime, to ensure the safety of women passengers.
Chief Justice Agarwal concurred, expressing concern over the incident’s severity and the potential risks women face while traveling alone or with children.
The State counsel, Luvkumar-Shah, asserted that women constables were already patrolling during the night. However, she promised to verify this information and provide further instructions in the next hearing, acknowledging the importance of safeguarding women constables as well.
The bench noted that the upcoming festive season would put added pressure on the State to guarantee women’s safety. Luvkumar-Shah assured the Court that Gujarat is one of the safest places, with a strong police presence late at night. Nevertheless, she pledged to take all necessary measures.
Furthermore, the Court considered the “guidelines” issued by the State, which mandate that police officers wear uniforms and nameplates while on duty, particularly during nighttime hours.
The Court urged the State to ensure that these guidelines, originally issued by the Police Commissioner in Ahmedabad, are enforced not only in Ahmedabad but also in all cities across Gujarat.
The Court also suggested that the State display helpline numbers inside public vehicles like taxis and rickshaws for easy access during emergencies. Additionally, Mehta urged the Court to direct the State to provide at least a “token” compensation, if not a “just” compensation, to the couple affected by the extortion incident.
The bench agreed to address this matter after a week, once Mehta submits his recommendations for the State to prevent similar incidents and enhance women’s safety.