The 200 rupee night cops of Manipal4 min read
Manipal: It is 11 p.m. The street, bathed in the dim yellow of incandescent light, is lonely. You are standing at the entrance to Manipal Lake with a group of friends and the only noise apart from the conversation is the rustle of leaves. And then you hear the low hum of an unmarked motorcycle coming your way, two police officers on it.
There is little that can prepare you for what comes next and even less you can do to wriggle out of it. “Staying out after 10:30 p.m. is against the law,” the officer says. “Give me your name, address, telephone number and your bike keys. I’ll call the police van and take you and your friends to the station if you don’t comply,” he says.
“You will receive a court summons tomorrow and you will most definitely pay for your crime,” he adds. He then looks up at you from his pad upon which he is carefully noting down your address and college roll number. “You either pay the fine at the court after you receive your summons or you hand over the fine to me and I will take care of it. Don’t worry, nothing on your permanent record and no one will ever know,” the officer says.
Rs. 200 per head.
At least six acquaintances of mine have faced this situation over the last ten days at Manipal Lake, View Point (Ananth Nagar) and End Point on separate occasions. Each of them has paid Rs. 200 for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I got in touch with a lawyer, to ascertain what laws, if any, were broken. “There is no law that states you cannot congregate after a certain time in the night. The most a police officer can do in such a situation is to ask those individuals to disperse if he believes there is a likelihood that something untoward will occur there,” he said. “There is absolutely no question of the police filing a case, handing out a court summons or asking for a fine to be paid,” he added.
One of the individuals who did eventually pay the ‘fine’ says, “It was pretty obvious he was fishing for a bribe. We knew we had not done anything wrong, it was only 10:30 p.m.” Is confrontation an option even if you know you are in the clear? “Do not confront them,” advises the lawyer. “They are capable of filing a false case. They could just say you were driving rashly or anything else for that matter. Just note down the vehicle number and the name of the officer and report it to a senior police official.”
Another unlucky student says, “They try to scare you so that it seems like giving them that money is alright. They work on fear. He said he saw me in lots of fights around Manipal and even during a drug bust. He said he would file multiple cases against me for those incidents. All the claims he made were lies.”
“The lesson to be learnt here – don’t stay stationary at any place beyond 10:30 at night. It is simpler and wiser to pay the Rs. 200 even if you are in the right. A trumped-up court case against you is still a court case at the end of the day. I was worried it would get out of hand,” says another individual who was forced to pay.
When I contacted, the Police Inspector for the Manipal Police Station, H D Kulkarni, stated, quite emphatically, that money could not be taken by a police officer in that manner at any time of day. “The most an officer can do is ask why those individuals are there and what they are doing at that point of time. The officer can also take down personal details to verify that they are not convicted offenders,” he says.
He says there are around 15 provisions, such as creating a public nuisance and obstructing the free flow of traffic, under which an individual can be booked under the Karnataka Police Act but congregating after 10:30 p.m. at any place is not one of them: “You cannot book a person for standing at some place in the middle of the night and you certainly can’t take money.”
He has said that he will mount an enquiry into the issue.
*Names have been withheld due to the sensitive nature of revelations in this report.