Man falsely accused by Traffic police, wins case in court

7 April 2014 04:47 am - 4     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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In a historic judgment, an ordinary citizen has successfully argued a case against the traffic police and won it.

Mohammad Baskar Farouk isn’t a lawyer. But, falsely accused by the traffic section of the Pallama police station for using a mobile phone while driving, and charged accordingly, he defended himself successfully in court.

He decided to forego the services of a lawyer because, apart from the expense, he wasn’t sure a lawyer would argue the case the way he wanted to. He had never read law but knew that an injustice had been done to him. Many victims in similar cases would have simply pleaded guilty to avoid further trouble, and a deep rooted conviction that the law was always right and you can’t argue with it.  But Mohammad Baskar Farouk was determined to have his day in court.

In fact, he had initially intended  to plead guilty because he was planning to leave the country within three months, and a prolonged court case wasn’t in his plans. In a rare instance of a sympathetic, enlightened and humane judge comprehending the plight of a man who was being unjustly victimised by the police, Puttalama Magistrate Ranga Dissanayake declared that he was not ready to pass a verdict of guilty on someone who so strongly believed himself to be innocent. Therefore, the judge promised to conclude the case swiftly, thus permitting the accused to plead not guilty as charged.

Leading his own defence and cross-examining the police, Farouk was able to convincingly demonstrate that the police had wrongly charged him. In addition, he demonstrated that the policemen in question were unaware of some basic traffic and road regulations. The result was that, after declaring the defendant not guilty as charged, the magistrate severely reprimanded the police for making up cases to please their superiors. They were ordered to pay Rs. 40,000 as compensation to the defendant.

This must have been a trial of a unique kind, and should  set a precedent. Unfortunately, despite the occasional precedent, the usual mindset whereby the general public accept anything the police tell them in order to ‘avoid trouble’ continues.

Farouk was not a lorry driver, as it was initially reported. He was driving his tiny Dimo transport vehicle when two traffic policemen of the Pallama police station stopped him and charged him with using a mobile phone while driving.

Farouk protested his innocence. As a chronic sufferer from ear pain, he was driving while covering the troubled ear with one hand. But the two policemen insisted that they saw him using the phone. Amazingly, it didn’t occur to either of them (one was the officer-in-charge of the traffic branch) to take the elementary step of checking Farouk’s phone. The call register would have confirmed Farouk’s story. Instead, they filed a charge for an offence offense which had not been committed in the first place.

All this became evident as Farouk cross-examined the two policemen. Their position was made weaker by the fact that the police reported the presence of three policemen on duty at the time, whereas only two were present. The third policeman, when he began testifying under oath, soon got himself into trouble.
Another point was that the police report stated the site of the incident to be Pallama, whereas the actual spot was some 13 km away. The police testimony steadily broke down under this relentless cross-examination, convincing the magistrate that the police had acted unlawfully and incompetently. The result was a severe reprimand and dismissal of the case.

An interesting aspect of this case is that, since we can never leave out the ethnic angle in this racially fragmented society of ours, the magistrate was Sinhalese while the accused was a Muslim, certainly not from a favourite minority (if there is any such thing). The traffic OIC in question too, was Muslim. One can therefore happily conclude that no racial bias came into play. Only the legal points were taken into consideration. That’s very positive at a time when the minorities are allegedlly discriminated against by various extremist factions in the majority, and when racial prejudice is at its highest since independence. Clearly, sane and sensible individuals in responsible positions act according to their conscience and best judgement.

It is worth examining here the character of Mohammad Farouk. He is not politically connected, wealthy or powerful. But he’s deeply religious and has a strong sense of right and wrong. He’s a cultured man who speaks fluent Sinhala. But from where does this placid, middle-aged man get the moral strength and courage to stand up to the police in a court of law? After all, his victory was due to luck as much as anything else. A less understanding magistrate might have simply accepted a ‘guilty as charged’ plea and ordered him to pay a fine for an uncommitted offence.

Some time back, Mohammad Farouk  allegedlly spent several months in remand prison for an offence he had not committed, and that left a deep mark on his psyche. He had accompanied to the airport a woman going to the Middle East  when he was arrested for ‘unlawfully aiding and abetting’ a person to get employment abroad. There was an alleged error in the woman’s visa due to a bureaucratic muddle. Until it was clarified, he spent almost a year in the Negombo prison as a remand prisoner.

He was eventually exonerated, but paid a heavy price for someone else’s bureaucratic muddle. His son could not complete his Advanced Level studies that year, and the family had to sell the house to meet legal costs.

That kind of injustice can put iron in a man’s soul.

From time to time, there are similar precedents. Several years ago, a lone individual from Matara filed court action against a leading supermarket chain when the latter began charging customers for  disposable plastic bags, and  won a victory on behalf of millions of fellow consumers. Recently, similarly courageous individuals filed action against recent attempts to bring back the old, draconian ‘no full face helmets’ law, and won a reprieve. The country is in dire need of more people of that mettle.
  (Mohammad Farouk  has a vision of starting a humanitarian fund for  kidney and heart patients, and is looking for help. He can be contacted on phone No. 0777496746).
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  Comments - 4

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  • Anjula Monday, 07 April 2014 11:23 AM

    What a lovely story. Great to see justice was served.
    Well done, Mr. Farouk!

    Vibash Wijeratne Tuesday, 08 April 2014 12:55 PM

    The judge is honorable,

    And Mr. Farook is a courageous man.

    But the point of view of the reporter was inappropriate in the was it was stirring up unrelated racial issues and trying to take some mileage!

    To whom do you try to address?

    Is this responsible reporting?

    Frankie Sunday, 03 August 2014 11:51 AM

    Today, I went to the beach front with my kids. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year
    old daughter and said "You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear." She placed the shell to her ear and screamed.
    There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched
    her ear. She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is entirely off topic
    but I had to tell someone!

    suresh Tuesday, 08 April 2014 03:34 AM

    Well done !! He has done what most people have been scared to do - standing up for what you believe in.


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