How Are Established Lawyers in Kerala Appearing for Beggars and Nomads in Court?

Often, while travelling in buses and trains, we come across people who leave a leaflet on our laps and proceed to distribute it to every passenger. These leaflets usually tell a sad story and ask for financial help at the end. Most people read through these and give them back or spare the person a few rupees. But we fail to wonder why they still look for help when there are lot many organisations and government institutions in our country that take care of such people, treat them and, provide them with food and accommodation.

The Kochi Post came across a Facebook post by advocate Rahul V.I., in which he has given a shocking revelation. He says that nomads, beggars, and migrant hawkers, who have been arrested for stealing or any other offences, often have no guardians or relatives capable of taking them on bail. But they are still being released on bail by the mafia. The surprising part is lawyers, who are designated by the mafia, appear for taking bail even without the knowledge of the accused. It is obvious that the mafia, which employs them, stands to benefit when these people are out on the streets.

“Every time this might not be the case, but the picture is more complicated than it seems. I once had to work as a remand advocate, who is meant to provide legal aid for the accused who is not in a situation to hire an advocate to go ahead with the court proceedings. But when a theft case was brought to the Court that included two women from Tamil Nadu as accused, I had to appear for them as, according to them, they didn’t have a lawyer. However, when I informed the same to the Court I was embarrassed as I was informed that a lawyer had already appeared for them and moved a bail application,” says Rahul.

This is a topic to be considered with great seriousness and it is the responsibility of the police department to look into such matters and submit the investigation report only after conducting a transparent probe into the same.

Why do such prominent people appear for those who do not have even have an ID proof? Undoubtedly, there is something powerful behind this – a complex and widespread mafia.

Explaining more about this, Human Rights Law Network, Kochi head, Sandhya Raju says, “This is a complicated subject. Therefore, it is wrong to say that any person, for whom an expensive lawyer appears, is part of a mafia or a racket and that the underworld is hiring these lawyers. There are genuine cases also where a mother might have stolen food for her child and was arrested by the police. And in such cases when they see some people helping them out, they have a sort of obligation and are ready to do whatever these people make them do. I have also come across cases where these people agree that they have committed the offence out of fear of being put in jail. There are many grey areas that need to be given proper attention, according to the nature of the case. It is the responsibility of the police department to formulate steps to deal with such issues in an effective manner.”

Though many States including Kerala have strict anti-begging laws, the efficiency with which these are implemented is questionable. Moreover, a majority of the beggars or hawkers who are arrested for stealing are not Kerala-born. They belong to Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and the North Eastern States. Social workers and activists say this is because Malayalees prefer to get admitted in an NGO or religious centre rather than resorting to begging. They also say that those who migrate are not aware of any such provisions and are easily dragged into doing such things.

Sandhya is of the opinion that all these are known facts and rather than saying that there are rackets and mafias existing, which push people into begging and stealing, it would be effective if the police department is made efficient.

Apart from pushing the downtrodden into begging, stealing and kidnapping, grave offences like human trafficking, prostitution, etc. are also the higher links to this chain. Authorities must take strict action and crack down on these rings immediately.

The Kochi Post emailed DGP Loknath Behera to understand the stand of the police on this issue. But did not receive a response.

Main photograph by George Tziralis via Flickr.

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