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Home > News > Interview

The Rediff Interview/Lakshmana K Kailash, wrongly arrested techie

'I have lost everything'

January 21, 2008

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August 31, 2007, is a day software engineer Lakshmana K Kailash would like to forget. In the wee hours of that dreaded day, he was picked up from his Bangalore home by six policemen from Pune on charges of defaming Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj on Orkut.com.

Despite protesting that he did not know anything about it, he was taken to Pune and thrown into jail, where he spent 50 days with over 200 undertrial prisoners for an offence he did not commit. He was charged under Section 295 A of the Indian Penal Code ('deliberate and malicious act intended to outrage religious feelings'), and Section 67 of the IT Act (publishing 'lascivious material on the Internet').

Fifty days later, his luck changed and the three people who were behind the offence were arrested. Lakshmana, who is currently with his family in Tamil Nadu, says his fight is not over yet. He has slapped a legal notice demanding Rs 20 crore (Rs 200 million) from Bharti Airtel [Get Quote] and the Pune police. He said his arrest was based on the Internet Protocol address provided by the telecom service provider Bharti.

Rediff.com Special Correspondent Vicky Nanjappa caught up with Lakshmana to find out how he plans to take on the telecom giant and the police.

In jail, what was going on in your mind?

I used to talk to other undertrial prisoners most of the time. They used to tell me that it would take a minimum of nine months before I actually got a hearing. However, for me it was a miracle that the three real culprits were apprehended and I was able to get out soon.

Initially, I was very weak. I had stopped eating properly. But I realised my family needed me and I decided I had to be strong.

Do you have faith in the judiciary?

Yes, I do. It was the judiciary after all that issued my release order. However, I do feel there is a need to finetune the law -- the Information Technology Act in particular. It is very unfortunate that a person is arrested just on the basis of the IP address.

When I was at the office of the commissioner of police, I asked him what if his IP address had been misused. He really did not have an answer to that. With a bit of finetuning and proper implementation, I feel the entire system could be put in place.

Your company, HCL [Get Quote], stood by you.

I will be getting back to work in Bangalore soon. My company has been very supportive and I really appreciate that. At present I am on medical leave and need some more time before I actually start working.

What was the attitude of both Bharti and the police?

What I realised about the police was that they were not getting enough technical assistance in this case. There were many instances where I suggested certain remedies to them. Both Bharti and the police told me they had only done their duty. But the fact remains that I have suffered and I have only one life.

Why did you decide to sue both?

I spoke to both. The police told me they acted based on the information provided to them by Bharti. When I asked Bharti, they told me that 1,000 pieces of evidence can be given, but it is the duty of the police to verify it. I really got tired of these replies and realised that both were trying to wash their hands off this case.

I am the one who suffered and I needed answers and that is why I decided to sue both of them.

How has your family reacted to this episode?

I hail from a middle class family, and values, dreams and self-respect are of utmost importance to us. Our family has had a good reputation in society for the past 100 years. None of my family members have even set foot in a police station except when we had to get our passports made.

We have not even been involved in a civil case. So you could well imagine what my family must have gone through when this happened. My family members were really upset and I can only thank God that they were strong and did not do anything drastic.

Throughout this entire case, my brother was in Pune all the time. He did not know the local language; the lawyers were pushing him around. My heart goes out to him when I think of that.

There are relatives who still do not talk to us. My family is still in a state of shock.

Has this episode changed you as a person?

Yes, it has made me a stronger person. I have realised that I have to fight to earn my self-respect back. I am shattered and have lost everything. I need a lot of support from people. I am still very scared to use the Internet. I will have to be stronger.


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