Durban - A Durban businessman who was harassed by police wanting to “teach him a lesson” for asking why bail had been set so high for the release of a woman arrested for talking on her cellphone while driving, is to get R110 000 from the minister of police.
This is for general damages suffered by Niemesh Singh, a property developer and owner of the buildings occupied by Gateway Toyota, Gateway Lexus and GM Umhlanga.
Judge Johan Ploos van Amstel, of the Pietermaritzburg High Court, also found the minister liable for the legal costs.
The judge said on Tuesday that in May 2010, Singh found out that the mother of one of his daughter’s friends - whom he had not known - had been arrested and that the police had set bail at R5 000.
He thought the amount was high and phoned a friend in the police, who agreed.
Singh contacted the Phoenix police station and spoke to Warrant Officer Theena Pillay, who became angry when questioned about the amount, saying he was not corrupt. Singh was told he would be taught a lesson and brought to the station.
Six armed policemen, in marked vehicles and with flashing blue lights, later arrived at Singh’s home to arrest him.
He told warrant officers Rajan Joseph and Dayalan Naidoo what had happened.
He also told them their presence restricted his freedom and caused him embarrassment as the neighbours and people driving past had seen them.
The police left and Singh sought his attorney’s advice.
Another policeman, Darmalingum Naicker, contacted Singh and asked him to come to the station. He called again and accused Singh of “thinking he was too clever and said they would hunt and find him and teach him a lesson”.
Singh was charged with intimidation and obstructing the course of justice, but the prosecutor declined to prosecute.
The judge said Singh was diabetic and his sugar levels rose because of stress, putting him at risk of going into a coma.
It was likely that Pillay had demanded R5 000 to pave the way for a bribe, the judge said. He believed Singh had been entitled to adopt the stance he did and the policemen’s reactions were unlawful and malicious.
Although Singh was not arrested, his rights had been infringed. “We now live in a society where the public is entitled to demand transparency and accountability from the State.”