Reputation and the law: India

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Judicial verdicts

SC: No money for cop unfairly stung by video

The Times of India, Apr 2, 2016

Dhananjay Mahapatra

A Delhi policeman silently suffered for six months as a video clip of him collapsing in a Metro coach went viral on social media with the insinuation that he was drunk when he was actually dizzy from a blockage in his brain, but the Supreme Court on Friday said he was not entitled to compensation.

In his petition seeking compensation, Salim P K narrated his medical condition to dispel the negative image created by the video clip recorded by a co-passenger. It evoked widespread sympathy, again on social media, but failed the apex court's judicial scrutiny.

"What is the mistake on the part of others to entitle you to compensation? Was the video doctored? No one claims that it was. So there was no mistake on anyone's part. A co-passenger saw the man falling. He recorded it and uploaded it on the internet. When there is no doctoring of the video, there is no crime committed by anyone," a bench of Justices J S Khehar and C Nagappan said and asked Salim's counsel Wills Mathews to establish how his client's fundamental right was violated to entitle him to compensation.

Mathews said right to life of a person included living life with dignity. The video may have been recorded in good faith but it certainly wounded Salim's reputation by branding him a 'drunken cop' when he went into a state of dizziness because of a medical condition, the counsel said.

"In the eyes of the public, my client continues to be a drunken cop. Because of the video clip, he was suspended by Delhi Police only to be cleared of all charges and back wages were paid," Mathews said.

The bench said as Salim had been reinstated in service and got back his wages, his major grievance had been addressed. "You have been reinstated. There are certain incidents which can be passed off as mere accident and no fault or wrongdoing can be attributed to anyone," the bench said while dismissing Salim's plea.

The 52-year-old cop had moved the SC seeking compensation for the damage caused by the video to his dignit and the standing in Delhi Police. "I was made to look like a villain by the media. Even my son was taunted in the colony. But I had faith in the system and finally I was taken back on duty," he said while describing his harrowing experience in the petition filed on March 9. The video went viral a day after he collapsed in the train on August 19 last year. Delhi Police put him under suspension on August 24 and asked him to explain his 'misconduct'.

Two months after the clip was shown on most TV channels, Salim's wife suffered a heart attack and had to undergo an operation. . After getting treatment in his home state Kerala, Salim returned to the capital and received an order from Delhi Police saying the suspension period from August 24 till November 4 would be treated as "spent on duty".

Salim had requested the SC to reverse the ignominy caused to him by the video clip. "Direct Union government, Press Council of India, Delhi government, commissioner of police and Delhi Metro to take appropriate steps to help him regain his lost dignity by working in coordination to publish or telecast prominently correct facts, particularly the medical disability leading to his collapse, by those media which published or shared the 37-second video clip with wrong and misleading title," his petition said.

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