While Bangalore traffic police spent their day debating the ban on DOT, ECE and SNELL rated helmets in favour of the lower-rated ISI mark, Kolkata took quite the alternative route. An altercation broke out between a man who was accused of not wearing a helmet and a group a Civic Volunteers, ended with the former ( a local businessman, Soumen Debnath) losing his life. Now while we do endorse a rigid penalty system for offenders without helmets, this is absolutely unacceptable. First, because the Civic Volunteer force on their own strength have no jurisdiction to prosecute or process unless there is an accompanying officer to issue a challan. Secondly, because even in the presence of the aforementioned officer, the Police do not have the right to man-handle an offender.
Now sources report the altercation broke out, as the Civic Volunteers stopped the deceased and demanded that he pay the heavy fine for not wearing a helmet. Soumen Debnath refused and the matter severely escalated with a group of Civic Volunteers then piling on Mr Debnath beating him senseless. He was declared DOA (Dead on Arrival) after locals rushed his comatose body to the nearest hospital. Unsurprisingly, this sparked an outrage in the residents around Kolkata’s North 24-Parganas district of Madhyamgram. The violent protest turned on the entire civic volunteer force, pelting them with stones, resulting in some of them having to climb out onto a ledge in fear of their lives.
What is surprising however, is the lax attitude of the Police who went on the record with the Hindu to say that the incident was a “scuffle”; “There was a scuffle between Mr. Debnath and some civic volunteers over violation of traffic rules. He was rushed to a local hospital where doctors declared him dead,” Superintendent of Police of North 24 Parganas C. Sudhakar. Thus far only one person has been arrested, while the Police wait for a post mortem report.