District Judge Kessler Soh fined three men, and one of them was also sentenced to jail, for causing a commotion during the Thaipusam procession in 2015 and clashed with police officers.
DJ Soh stressed that it was critical that the police’s authority is not undermined by unlawful acts of defiance and abuse when maintaining public order.
Gunasegaran Rajendran, 36, and Jaya Kumar Krishnasamy, 31, was fined S$8,000 and S$8,500, respectively.
While, Ramachandra Chandramohan, 35, was fined S$8,000 and sentenced to one year and one week’s jail. He told the court on Thursday (15 March) that he would serve an extra three weeks and five days’ jail, in lieu of paying the fine.
The incident happened on 3 February 2015. The trio were playing the urumi, a traditional Indian drum, when the troupe that Ramachandra and Gunasegaran engaged were stopped by the police.
The Government banned musical instruments during Thaipusam due to fights between competing groups in 1873. However, the ban was revoked in late-2015 and live music was allowed at the festival in 2016.
Ramachandra and Gunasegaran got upset when the police stopped them. The trio then caused a commotion which led them to the caught as their act was recorded.
Police officers were arresting Gunasegaran, when Ramachandra punched one of them on the lower jaw and hurled verbal abuse at another.
Jaya Kumar also tried to prevent the officers from taking Ramachandra into the police van.
The three then verbally abused the police officers in the van. Two of them even said offensive remarks at a Muslim officer. Gunasegaran landed a kick to another police officer’s lower jaw.
The 13 day trial began in 2016. Ramachandra, a businessman, was found guilty of seven charges for assaulting three police officers and uttering words aimed at wounding the religious feelings of a Muslim officer.
Jaya Kumar, an operations manager who joined the men at the procession, was convicted of three charges, which are behaving in a disorderly manner, verbally abusing a police officer and obstructing officers from discharging their duties.
Safety officer Gunasegaran was found guilty of two charges, including behaved in a disorderly manner and made comments with the deliberate intention to wound the religious feelings of a police officer while inside a police van.
DJ Soh stressed that deterrent sentences were clearly warranted in this case, saying, "The incident involved acts of violence and abuse against police officers, who were engaged in ensuring public order. Some offensive remarks (that) were directed at the Muslim officer had the potential to inflame religious sensitivities."
He agreed with the prosecution, which was led by Deputy Public Prosecutor Houston Johannus, who stated that a fine was warranted for Gunasegaran and Jaya Kumar, adding that Ramachandra’s conduct was “most aggravated” among the three.
After news of the incident broke in 2015, some members of the public questioned why the playing of musical instruments was banned during the Thaipusam procession, which prompted Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam and Trade and Industry Minister (Industry) S Iswaran — then Second Home Affairs Minister — to respond, with Mr Shanmugam saying Hindus are not discriminated against and have been given the privilege to hold religious foot processions.
TOC had earlier reported on this matter, interviewing an eye-witness who was presented by the time commotion happened.
The eye-witness, Jaya (not his real name), said that a group of police officers in civilian attire approached their urumi group and asked them to stop playing and follow the officers into the alley. The other members of the entourage, including Jaya, also followed suit to find out what had happened.
Harsh words were subsequently exchanged between the police officers and his friends, resulting in the situation becoming very chaotic with lots of pushing and squabbling. One of his friends' wife also tried to intervene because the officers were manhandling two of their friends.
According to Jaya, the whole situation was so heated because the police could not handle the initial situation and resorted to immediately calling in reinforcements. This merely served to make the tense situation worse as the officers who came in reacted too aggressively and tried to grip and push the people around at the scene.
Jaya said a female officer then pushed his friend's wife down, which resulted in her husband reacting violently and punching an officer. (Editor's note: According to the video, the lady was pulled to the ground by the female officer, not pushed.)
Another officer immediately restrained the man by holding his neck and pushing him against the wall forcefully.
Jaya claims that none of the men arrested were drunk. He said that the police claimed that they were drunk just based on assumption, by smelling their body. He argued that there should be a blood test done to justify these claims.