Tuesday, 6 November 2001

History in the Making - Five Accused-Trustees Appear Before JM I, Pondicherry

Such a sight as was never seen before happened on the fateful day of 05.11.2001. In the criminal case filed by Hemlata in S.T.R. No.864/2001, the accused trustees and other accused inmates were compelled to appear before the Judicial Magistrate I at Pondicherry. Here is what happened on that day.

Five accused trustees – Harikant Patel, Veda Prakash Johar, Dilip Datta, Manoj Das Gupta and Albert Patel @ Avinash – were represented by a hoard of lawyers. The three accused inmates – Krishna Belliappa, Manjunath and Satyanarayanamurthy – were represented by another set of lawyers.

On 05.11.2001 Harikant Patel and Veda Prakash Johar, for the sake of gaining court’s sympathy, were brought by five inmates each in wheelchair. One of the chair-bearers was Lalit Varma of Aurodhan Art Gallery, who equals four men in size, accompanied Veda Prakash Johar, his uncle. The trustees were accompanied by chosen henchmen viz. Matriprasad, Prushottam Iyyengar, Prafulla Patel, Saumya Bableshwar, Nirmal Chandra Swain, to name a few. So, there were about 23-25 inmates/henchmen of the trustees present on this auspicious day of hearing. Now add to this another 10-15 lawyers, clerks and well-wishers, all serving the trustees and their henchmen. So about 40-45 people were present on the accused trustees’ side.

On my side my lawyer, Mr. Cyril Vincent, Jayashree and myself were present.

The criminal case was generally called at the end to decrease humiliation caused to the trustees. This day was no exception. Before the case was called the court had been emptied to accommodate this huge group. So imagine the scene when we all appeared! Trustees and their coterie of about 40-45 people on one side, only three people - Mr. Cyril Vincent, Jayashree and myself – on the other side. Since the court hall was small it was a fascinating sight.

When the proceedings began C.S. Narasimhan opened his statement by saying this girl (indicating me) is harassing and intimidating us (pointing to the trustees). Mr. Vincent simply shrugged his shoulder and the judge burst out laughing. Mr. Narasimhan went red in the face and abstained from making such blunt allegations. But the hilarity of the situation totally escaped the trustees!