My friend Noel and I took the injudicious decision of walking down central Delhi’s KG Marg till my home in South Delhi a few nights back (on Wednesday, 20th April at 9 pm to be precise). The heat had subsided and taking a short walk after an early supper didn’t seem like a bad idea, not initially. Minutes later, a nightmare was to play out.
While Noel languished behind, punching numbers on my phone, pressing a series of tabs, trying to contest between the availability of an Ola or an Uber, scantily gracing Delhi’s roads as they both have been recently, I walked ahead trying to hail every auto that passed us by.
Five minutes into the aforementioned scenario, a bike with two boys closed in on me for a second before whizzing past, making me turn back to Noel, who was still happily glued to the screen. As the bike got really close to him, one of the dudes scooped the phone out of Noel’s hands and sped away.
What followed was a slick chase- a la Danny Boyle film style- between Noel and the bike- with the latter squeezing between cars, skirting through pavements, getting almost sandwiched between vehicles and inviting a hoard of passersby to circle them around. I, on the other hand, was running frantically in the middle of the road only to stumble upon my heavily dismantled phone lying inches away from someone’s car wheels.
The boys were pulled off their bike and beaten up as I called the PCR. A beat constable’s immediate arrival helped further. So far, so good. We nabbed the boys, on our own. We found our phone, on our own. And we were asked to register a statement in the police thana, this time not at our own accord.
It took them three hours to run us through formalities while the boys were mercilessly beaten up, one by one, in an ordinary looking room where I believed, the cops also invite people like you and me for chai. Around 12.30 a.m., I was finally told that my phone was now the court’s property. And I must visit the court the next day to retrieve it. Had I once asked for the matter to be escalated thus? No. Had I insisted that I be given my phone back since I’d anyway found it and suggest that they take a call on the boys, please? Yes.
It didn’t end here.
The following day, I was being catapulted from one corner to the other in the bruised annals of the civil court in Central Delhi. The hearing never actually happened. The accused, backed by family and a lawyer, came and left. And I’m yet to get back my phone.
The Indian judicial system is one of the most loop-holed, redundant and inefficient systems in the world, or so I realized. As somebody who saw things unfold before her offering a microscopic perspective on the machinery, I have to say, the system is faulty, to say the least. It’s uncooperative, unhelpful and unruly. It also rides on sadistic pleasures once it sees you getting sucked into its imprudent demands.
It feasts on your fears, munches on your time, smacks its lips as you flinch at its non-bailable orders. A bunch of nincompoops man this system who want you to sweat it out and run around and waste your time and then come crawling back to them begging for mercy. It’s a little like how in the 18th century India a low caste would feed the vast cauldron of a stomach of a Brahmin priest to seek deliverance from an apparent wrongdoing. Once clawed by the vicious cycle, salvation never came.
I’m gutted beyond measure. After nabbing the thieves and generously handing them over to the cops; after completing all the formalities in a calm state of mind despite having been visibly traumatized; after cooperating in measures that the system isn’t remotely deserving of – all I got, at 6.30 in the evening, was a statement that I might have to reappear in the court again to regain ownership of my phone.
Moreover, the person who typed my application in court went on to tell me, with great audacity as though he was the only learned bloke amongst us low-bred civilians, was that I might have to pay the court ten thousand rupees if I refused to reappear again.
I discovered today that being a part of one of the strongest wings of this country, the media, doesn’t help either. A middle class, ordinary citizen, is just that- middle class and ordinary. In the end, it’s you versus the state.
Meanwhile, the accused, two 19-year-olds have been sent to Tihar on judicial remand, and the police are trying to pin down the ‘larger nexus’ of phone theft through these two. As far as I remember, one of the boys at the station was identified from his Aadhar card. I think a typically more hardened street gangs could do better when going around Delhi with the agenda of snatching phones than to weigh down their pockets (and lives) with Aadhar cards.
My next meeting with the accused and the cops is on the 27th. Till then I’d have already wasted reasonable money and a good chunk of my sanity behind a little under a ten-thousand-rupee phone.
The facts of this article could not be individually verified by Youth Ki Awaaz