Three Singaporean men who were involved in a scuffle during a Thaipusam procession in 2015 were found guilty of disorderly behaviour and making religiously insensitive remarks on Friday (2 February) after a trial.
The incident was caught on a video that was widely circulated online.
Ramachandra Chandramohan, 35, was found guilty on seven charges including disorderly behaviour, hurting several policemen, verbally abusing an officer and hurting the religious feelings of a Malay officer by insulting Islam.
Gunasegaran Rajendran, 36, and Jaya Kumar Krishnasamy, 31, were found guilty on three and two charges respectively, including disorderly behaviour and making similar hurtful remarks to the Malay officer.
The trio contested the charges on 21 November 2016 and was convicted after a 14-day trial in the State Courts.
Ramachandra and Gunasegaran, who are cousins, had engaged an urumi troupe to play musical instruments to support Gunasegaran’s brother, who was carrying a kavadi during Thaipusam on 3 February 2015. Jaya Kumar is a friend of both the co-accused.
The dispute occurred at the junction of Serangoon Road and Desker Road when several police officers approached the troupe and told them not to play their instruments along the procession route.
Musical instruments were prohibited during Thaipusam processions from 1973 to 2015. Since 2016, live music has been permitted at three points during the processions.
Upon hearing the advice from the officers, Ramachandra and Gunasegaran became agitated and began shouting at them. When the officers tried to calm the trio down, the latter created a scene.
Ramachandra confronted and punched a police officer on the lower jaw. Even after being arrested, Ramachandra continued behaving in an aggressive manner and hurled vulgarities at the officers.
Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Houston Johannus had said that the actions of Ramachandra and Gunasegaran “not only disrupted the festivities, it also resulted in a highly chaotic situation”.
After arresting Ramachandra and Gunasegaran, police formed a human cordon around them in a back lane of Desker Road. Jaya Kumar then began shouting aggressively at the officers and tried to break into the cordon to reach his two friends.
Jaya Kumar later tried to obstruct the police from loading Ramachandra into the police van following his friend’s arrest. Ramachandra had also put up a struggle as he entered the van and kicked two police officers.
When the trio were brought inside the police van, they became verbally abusive towards a Malay police officer, with Ramachandra and Gunasegaran saying offensive words about Islam. Jaya Kumar also joined the two in hurling verbal abuse at the officer.
Addressing the trio, District Judge (DJ) Kessler Soh noted that Ramachandra and Gunasegaran felt upset that the the police handled the situation in a “high-handed” manner. “You felt that the police were rough, loud and rude and you felt that you were manhandled, talked to sternly and treated like criminals,” said DJ Soh.
Having considered the evidence during the trial, including police testimony and videos of the scene, DJ Soh said that he did not find that the police officers behaved in a high-handed or unprofessional manner. The police had to maintain order at the scene and sometimes needed to speak loudly in order to be heard. They also tried to diffuse a somewhat chaotic situation, the judge added.
“I find that you both overreacted and behaved in a disorderly manner,” said DJ Soh.
In his closing remarks, DJ Soh said, “If you had only maintained control over your emotions and not overreacted that day to police officers’ efforts to maintain public order, this unfortunate turn of events would not have happened.”
DPP Johannus sought an adjournment to prepare sentencing submissions. Sentencing has been fixed for 6 March.
For disorderly behavior, the trio face up to a month’s jail or a fine of up to $1,000. For assaulting a police officer, they could get a maximum jail term of seven years and a fine or caning. For wounding the religious feelings of the Malay officer, they face a maximum jail term of three years and/or a fine.
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