Wrongly Accused Of Defaming Shivaji On Net
Ketan Tanna | TNN
Mumbai: In the early hours of the morning of August 31, Lakshmana Kailash K was asleep in his home in Bangalore. He was woken up by eight policemen from Pune who came knocking on his door and waved the Information Technology Act, 2000, in his sleepy, terrified face. Get dressed, he was told, we are taking you to Pune for having defamed Shivaji.
Lakshmana protested that he didnâ€™t know anyone called Shivaji. The policemen said that they were talking about Chhatrapati Shivaji, and that an insulting picture of him had been uploaded on the internet networking site Orkut. The cyber trail had led them to his computer in Bangalore.
Turning a deaf ear to his protests, the police took him to Pune and put him behind bars. Along the way, the 26-year-old Lakshmana, who works with HCL, learned that what he was being arrested for was a case that had triggered riots in Pune in November 2006. Political parties had forcibly closed cafes and gone on the rampage over the posting of the illustration which had poked fun at Shivaji. New to the ways of cyber crime, the police took over ten months to trace the alleged source.
Google, which owns Orkut, had cooperated with them but the vital IP address (computer number) was provided by the service provider Bharti (Airtel). Bharti said that the IP address belonged to a Lakshmana K who lived in a Bangalore apartment with friends.
His first bail plea was rejected. Finally, on October 20, after spending 50 days with 200 undertrials at Yervada Jail, Lakshmana was released. Sorry, said the police, the IP address given to us was wrong. We are sorry, said Airtel, and â€œdeeply distressed by the severe inconvenience caused to the customerâ€™â€™.
To add insult to injury, the police released Laskshmana nearly three weeks after they claimed to have picked up the â€œreal culpritsâ€™â€™ on October 3â€” three Bangalore boys from Koramangala, all in judicial custody. Asked about the earlier arrest, assistant commissioner Netaji Shinde says, â€œYes, we made a mistake. So what?â€™â€™
Bharti was a little more contrite but made no mention of compensation. â€œWe are in touch with the customer. We have robust internal processes which we review frequently to make them more stringent,â€™â€™ said Airtel in a written response to TOI. â€œWe have conducted a thorough investigation of the matter and will take appropriate action.â€™â€™
Lakshmanaâ€™s ordeal has uncanny resonances of Kafkaâ€™s â€˜The Trialâ€™, the more so because his name has the same initial K as Kafkaâ€™s hapless protagonist. K is arrested one morning before breakfast on a non-charge and is left to battle the stateâ€™s mindless might. Lakshmana was charged under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code for a deliberate and malicious act intended to outrage religious feelings, and Section 67 of the Information Technology Act for publishing â€˜lasciviousâ€™ material or material that â€˜appeals to the prurient interestâ€™.
This is a shocking case. The police canâ€™t get away with a mere apology after wrongly charging Lakshmana Kailash and putting him in jail for 50 days on the basis of a â€œmistakeâ€™â€™. The cops may argue that they acted in good faith and the error was made by the telecom company. But wasnâ€™t the mistake compounded because of poor police work? In fact, itâ€™s because of police sloppinessâ€”or is it arrogance?â€”that the youngster has suffered this nightmare. Currently, the law doesnâ€™t allow for suing the police and other authorities for such mistakes. The law must be changed so that hapless persons like Lakshmana can demand and get compensation for being gravely wronged. That will also force the police to be careful while exercising their vast powers.
Jail played havoc with techie health
Mumbai: Bangalore techie Lakshmana Kailash K was charged under the IPC and the Information Technology Act. The latter charge carries a punishment of five yearsâ€™ and gives the police the right to search cyber cafes and residences without a warrant.
Like Kafkaâ€™s K, Lakshmana tried initially to be brave. But he cracked when he was made to pose for a photograph with a black slate carrying his fatherâ€™s name and his alleged crime. â€œIt hurt me a lot that my father, who is a retired banker in Tirunelveli, was being associated with a crime. I just broke down,â€™â€™ he says.
â€œWe were given a vati (bowl) which we had to eat and drink from and even take to the toilet. The long queues for filling water in the vati was our survival routine,â€™â€™ says Lakshmana. The threein-one bowl system hit him hard. His kidney stones started acting up and his health deteriorated rapidly. â€œBecause of depression and the bad food, I lost 12 kilos,â€™â€™ he says. â€œI now even have an enlarged liver because of the food and the stress.â€™â€™
Heâ€™s back home now trying to put it all behind him. HCL has been supportive but Lakshmana is not sure whether his job still exists. â€œI have forgotten coding. I need to start all over again,â€™â€™ he says. Asked if he planned to sue for compensation, Lakshmana is philosophical. â€œMy family is considering it. Right now, Iâ€™m just beginning to appreciate the small things in life. Itâ€™s good to have a toilet to oneself. Itâ€™s good to have clean drinking water. Itâ€™s good to have family to quarrel with.â€™â€™
Two days after he returned to Bangalore, Airtel got in touch. But it wasnâ€™t about the arrest. They sent him a text message reminding him to pay his bill. The text message was followed up by a visit from a collection agent. â€œI told them itâ€™s all because of you that I havenâ€™t paid,â€™â€™ says Lakshmana. â€œWe canâ€™t pay bills from jail.â€™â€™