Why being a Good Samaritan isn’t always good

Dia Rekhi @ Chennai

Being a Good Samaritan can backfire. Dr Banu Krishnan experienced that when she was allegedly harassed continuously after she took a 64-year-old woman, Rathinamal, who was lying helpless on the road, to the hospital.

The incident took place on February 27, when Dr Krishnan was on her way to the clinic. She was driving and, while waiting at the traffic signal near Guru Nanak College in Velachery, she noticed a commotion. While most people would turn a blind eye and carry on after noticing an accident site, Dr Krishnan could not do that.

“She was old and frail, and had come unaccompanied to a temple nearby,” said Dr Krishnan, mother of city-based writer Nandini Krishnan. “She said she could not move and pleaded with me to take her to a private hospital nearby. She asked me to call her grandson from my phone, who soon arrived on a two-wheeler. He requested me to accompany them to the hospital so that she could get help quickly as I was a doctor.”

The consultant at the hospital told Dr Krishnan that the old woman had an suffered an ankle fracture and required hospitalisation. The woman’s daughter, Selvi, too, arrived by this time, and Dr Krishnan briefed the family on the injured woman’s condition before suggesting they shift to a government hospital for treatment. That was when things took an unexpected turn.

“Immediately, the daughter accused me of running the woman over, and said I should pay the treatment cost,” recollected Dr Krishnan. “The grandson made the same accusation while the old woman begged me to forgive them. Then the daughter demanded that I pay them Rs. 5,000, or she would file a police case saying I had run the woman over.”

However, Dr Krishnan didn’t give in and left the hospital. That would be the end of it, she thought, but that was just the beginning. The grandson began calling her from different numbers, allegedly threatening to file a false complaint. This was not all. She began receiving calls at odd hours from men claiming to be police officials from the J3 Guindy traffic police investigation station, too. The people on the call identified themselves as Chidambaram and Palani while a third man did not divulge his name or designation.

“They asked me to come to the police station to ‘settle’ the matter,” she said. “When I told them this is all a lie, they said false witnesses could be arranged in court, and even if it was a lie, it would be best for me to ‘settle the matter through insurance’. My husband visited the police station last week and they told him the same thing, and refused to let him speak to the senior officers.”

The copy of the FIR has not been handed over to either Dr Krishnan or Rathinamal.
If the calls weren’t enough, Dr Krishnan had two lawyers arrive at her clinic threatening to sue her. “But these lawyers, apparently arranged by different family members, were both shocked when I explained what had happened,” said Dr Krishnan. “They realised the old woman’s relatives were trying to pull a scam and did not return. But the calls from different numbers, urging me to accept a crime I did not commit, continued.”

The police, however, denied asking for any settlement to be made. They claimed the calls that were made to the doctor were all routine calls that merely urged her to visit the station.

“We never urged her to make any ‘settlement,'” said an officer of the J3 police station on condition of anonymity. “We only asked her to come to the police station for the due procedure, to conduct an enquiry. She refused to come saying she did not commit the crime so we called a few more times. Her husband visited the station three days ago and we spoke to him about the case.”

The police said a meeting was held with the Adyar Deputy Commissioner on Saturday where the case was discussed.

Rathinamal’s family, on the other hand, has a different tale to tell. Though she is stable, doctors have advised bed rest for the next 30-50 days.

“We never threatened anyone,” said Rathinamal’s 22-year-old grandson, who refused to be named. “Yes, we did call her several times after the incident but only because she ran over my grandmother. I was not there at the spot so I cannot comment on whether she did it or not, but while the doctor has denied having done it, my grandmother is firmly saying she did. Who would I believe?”

The grandson even accepted that they hired an advocate to fight the case. However, now they have decided it is best to move on and not expect anything to come of the case.
“We have lost all hope now,” said the grandson. “We did hire a lawyer but he was lazy so we also became lax. The police, too, were not proactive. Beyond a point, they never bothered to give us any details so we left it at that. We have moved on from that incident and don’t expect anything now.”

Dr Krishnan, at her wit’s end, is now thinking she should refrain from helping people from hereon, much like most bystanders who prefer to remain mute spectators rather than help fearing legal consequences.

Rathinamal’s family feel they are paying bills they should not be paying considering she claims she was run over. What remains to be seen now is what course this case takes now that Dr Krishnan has lodged a complaint with the police commissioner.Why being a Good Samaritan isn’t always good

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