Media organisations across Karnataka have strongly condemned the state police force for forcing B V Seetharam, publisher of the Kannada daily newspaper, Karavali Ale, to wear handcuffs while he was being produced at a court in Udupi.
Seetharam, chairman of Chithra Publications Private Limited, was arrested on January 9 in connection with a defamation case. A non-bailable warrant had been issued against him as he had failed to appear before the court. Seetharam was handcuffed when he was produced before the civil judge at Udupi.
Seetharam's advocate Vikram Hegde told rediff.com that the incident was unfortunate. "I don't see any reason why they had to handcuff Seetharam. I feel the police's intention was to humiliate him. He has been writing against the people in power and some very powerful elements are against him," he added.
The incident sent shock waves across the state. In an attempt at damage control, the police department suspended the two head constables who had handcuffed Seetharam.
Inspector General (Western Range) Ashit Mohan informed the media that the department has initiated disciplinary proceedings against the two constables, Nagesh Shetty and Raveendra Shetty, and an inquiry will be conducted.
The Karnataka Union of Working Journalists adopted a resolution condemning the incident and termed it as an assault on democracy. Union members met Director General of Police R Shrikumar who assured them that he was looking into the matter and suitable action will be taken.
Seetharam's family now plans to approach the state human right commission. "Some elements have tried to humiliate my husband and they are doing everything possible to embarrass him. Even when the constables were taking my husband to court, he tried to argue with them by quoting the provisions of the law on handcuffing, as laid down by the Supreme Court. But the policemen did not listen to him and my husband decided to keep quiet. The police may have acted against the constables, but we will continue to fight this matter," the journalist's wife S Rohini told rediff.com.
The Supreme Court has clearly stated that only dangerous criminals can be handcuffed while being produced in court.
In its ruling on the Citizens for Democracy versus the State of Assam case, the Court observed that handcuffing and chaining in public degrades a person's finer sensibilities. It added that handcuffing in such cases violated human dignity and was a slur on Indian culture.
Image: B V Seetharam at the Udupi court. Photograph Courtesy: Daya Kukkaje/Daijiworld