Rights panel asks Tamil Nadu to pay ₹2 lakh to woman held over anti-BJP slogans

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The Tamil Nadu State Human Rights Commission has ordered the state government to pay 2 lakh compensation to a research scholar, Lois Sophia, more than three years after she was arrested for shouting slogans against the BJP on a flight in which the then state BJP president Tamilisai Soundararajan was a passenger.

In an order on Wednesday based on a complaint filed by the scholar’s father A A Samy, a retired civil surgeon, SHRC member D Jayachandran ordered that 2 lakh be provided as compensation to Sophia for “violation of human rights.” The SHRC directed the state government to recover the amount from seven police officers in Thoothukudi and also recommended disciplinary action against them.

The incident took place on September 3, 2018 aboard a Chennai-Thoothukudi Indigo flight in which Sophia, her parents and Soundararajan, who is currently the Governor of Telangana and L-G of Puducherry, were travelling. Sophia had returned home for holidays while she was a student in Montreal, Canada.

During deboarding, the then BJP chief was walking to exit the aircraft when Sophia had raised the slogans. The complainant had said that BJP cadre had gathered in the arrival area of the Thoothukudi airport in a short period and begun abusing his daughter. The state was then ruled by BJP’s ally, the AIADMK. Police arrested her from the airport, but she was granted bail by a local court.

Sophia was arrested on a complaint filed by Soundararajan with the airport police alleging that the Sophia could have acted “at the insistence of a terror group.” Sophia’s father Samy had then alleged that his daughter was kept at the women’s police station for eight hours. The respondent policemen denied the charges.

Considering arguments of both sides, the SHRC said Sophia’s arrest wasn’t essential. “It is for the criminal court to decide whether Sophia has committed any offence punishable under section 290 of IPC and section 75 of TNCP Act” and “this Commission cannot decide on this aspect.” The SHRC also asked the DGP to comply with the direction given by the Supreme Court in Arnesh Kumar Vs. State of Bihar case that the accused should not be arrested by the police “mechanically” where the offence is punishable with imprisonment for a term which may be less than seven years or which may extend to seven years, whether with or without fine.

“This Commission is of the considered view that Lois Sophia is entitled to receive compensation for the violation of human rights from the respondents and fixing of 2,00,000 as compensation to the complainant would be fair and reasonable and would meet the ends of justice,” the order said. The Commission also recommended that disciplinary action be initiated against the respondent policemen.

The seven policemen named are R Thirumalai and A K Latha, inspector and SI of Pudukottai police station; V Ponramu, ASP, headquarters, Thoothukudi; R Prakash, DDP, Thoothukudi town sub-division; J Annathai, then inspector of police, Pudukottai police station (retired from service); G Baskaran, inspector, Special Branch CID; and S Nambirajan, sub-inspector, Special Branch, Thoothukudi.

The order added that the government may pay the amount within a month and recover 50,000 from Thirumalai and 25,000 each from others.


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