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SC warns Gujarat cops of arrest for illegal custody of businessman

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday came down heavily on the Gujarat police for arrest and police remand of a businessman, even after he was granted anticipatory bail, saying it was the “grossest of contempt” and “sheer abuse of power”.

A bench of Justices B R Gavai and Sandeep Mehta issued notice to police officials and a judicial magistrate of Surat and directed them to be present before it on January 29 bag and baggage.

Annoyed with non-compliance of its order, the bench said: “It seems Gujarat follows different laws, this is a pure violation of the orders, and the grossest of contempt”.

The bench warned it would send police officers, and a judicial magistrate to jail in connection with the police custody of a businessman despite being granted anticipatory bail by the apex court. The court said it would direct the Director General of Police (DGP) to send the contemnors to Sabarmati jail or somewhere else.

The apex court had earlier granted anticipatory bail to Surat resident Tusharbhai Rajnikantbhai Shah in a cheating case.

The court also asked Additional Solicitor General S V Raju, representing the Gujarat government, regarding CCTV footage.

Senior advocate Iqbal H Syed and advocate Mohammad Aslam, appearing on behalf of businessmen Shah, said they have applied with the commissioner of police to preserve the CCTV footage of Surat’s Vesu police station from December 13, till December 16, 2023, the period when their client was in custody.

“Let the magistrate and the investigating officer come and explain how the remand orders were passed,” the bench said.

As the court was informed that the cameras were not working, the bench said, “This was expected. It’s intentional. The cameras may not have been working for those four days. The police may not have marked his (Shah) presence in the police station diary. This is sheer abuse of power”.

The bench said it would issue a contempt notice to the magistrate also and told ASG Raju, to ask everyone to come on January 29 bag and baggage and the court will decide the matter that day itself.

ASG Raju apologised to the bench, acknowledging that the investigating officer had committed a blunder. Referring to four days of illegal custody, the bench said “let the magistrate and the investigation officer” be inside for four days.

The SC had in December 2023 granted anticipatory bail to Shah and directed that in the event of his arrest, he be released on bail in connection with an FIR dated July 21, 2023 subject to him executing a personal bond of Rs 25,000. However, the police arrested him when he went to the police station on December 11 to join the investigation.

The court was informed that the businessman was remanded in police custody, and allegedly threatened to extort Rs 1.65 crore from him in the presence of the complainant.

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