Chennai: The malice of jurisdictional squabble in the Chennai police could have contributed to the death of Subhasri, the techie run over by a water tanker after falling off her scooter due to the hit from an AIADMK functionary’s illegal banner at Pallikaranai on Thursday. The tragic mishap happened at 2.30 pm, according to the Traffic Investigation Inspector of St Thomas Mount deposing before the Division Bench of the Madras High Court on Friday, but he reached the spot only at 4.30 pm after an alert over the phone.
To a question from the shocked judges on the Bench if the body was lying there on the road (Pallavaram-Thoraipakkam Radial Road) for two hours, the Inspector replied that “immediately” after receiving the phone alert, he “rushed” to the place and took the body to the hospital (Kamatchi Hospital, only about 200 metres away). That was about 4.30 pm but then, the girl had died at 3.30 pm, the Inspector told the court.
Needless to say that the two judges, Justices M Sathyanarayanan and N Seshasayee, known for their deep social concern and legal acumen, were distressed by the callousness of the police handling the tragedy. The Bench has ordered a proper investigation supervised by Chennai Police Commissioner AK Viswanathan.
The DMK deputy general secretary and former MP, VP Duraiswamy has appealed to the court to appoint an advocate to monitor the investigation as the Commissioner “will not be able to act independently in this case” considering that his own department has been hauled up and besides it all began with an AIADMK functionary erecting an illegal banner to welcome the Deputy CM to his son’s wedding reception.
Subhasri, prima facie, suffered extensive injuries on the body — broken ribs and crushed hand — and lost blood, but there was no head injury. If someone among the people present there at that time had rushed her to the nearby Kamatchi Hospital, she might have been saved. For quite some time, the young woman was lying there on the road, bleeding profusely but alive. To be exact, she was alive and battling for life for one whole hour — even according to the Inspector’s admission before the High Court Bench.
All this while, it appears there was a squabble — or perhaps working out of a deal of convenience — between the Law and Order police at Pallikaranai and the Traffic police at St Thomas Mount as to who should take up the case. The cops, in appears at least in this tragic case, would move only after settling the jurisdictional issue and that’s why the Mount Inspector arrived at the ‘spot’ a full two hours after the mishap.
The Inspector also claimed before the court that he had taken the victim/body to the hospital at 4.30 pm, whereas the video footage available with this newspaper showed that the body, wrapped in a white sheet, was carried by some men from among the bystanders and a lone traffic constable stopped a Tata Ace van to take it to the hospital, where the doctors pronounced she was already dead for an hour.
That’s not all on this tragic mess-up that also points to the strong possibility of a stout cover-up attempt to save the AIADMK functionary who had put up the banner. It was only after a lot of public hue and cry that a case was registered against him at 6 p.m. and that too under a bailable section, 189 IPC, accusing him of erecting the banner without approval from the Chennai Corporation!
As it turned out, the Mount Inspector handled the traffic offence against the truck driver while the Pallikaranai L&O Inspector did the FIR against the AIADMK functionary. The court asked the latter why the case was registered so late (6 p.m.) and why should the police wait for a complaint from the grieving father to do that.
Also, they wanted to know how many digital flex banners were erected on that stretch of the road and the Pallikaranai Inspector said, “Four”. The judges then showed media reports/photographs that had several more boards than four and also wanted to know why the local police did not take action when the banners were put up without the Corporation permission and the mandatory No Objection Certificates?
“Without NOC from traffic police flex boards cannot be erected. Despite knowing that what prevented the police from removing those flex boards? Was it the colour of the (political party) flags on it?” is how the Bench slammed the police.
While the AIADMK functionary was booked under an easy and bailable section, the hapless truck driver was arrested under 304(A) - causing death by negligence -that would attract punishment up to two years in jail plus fine.
“Not even the smartest of racers in the world would have been able to bring to halt his super-speeding vehicle if someone falls right in front so suddenly”, said an eyewitness. But then, the young Bihari migrant might not have great advocate to defend his case and redeem his fate; while for the AIADMK functionary, the merriment of the son's marriage did not seem to dim a wee bit as the Deputy CM found nothing wrong in keeping his appointment on the decorated dais - after all, the banner had his picture along with the welcome message....