Inform all airports not to harass Sarah Thomas: HC to RPO

The Madras High Court on Thursday directed the concerned authorities to inform all airport authorities not to harass Sarah Thomas, an NRI from Dubai, detained by immigration officials here in a case of mistaken identity, lodged in prison and later handed over to Kerala Police.

Chennai: The Madras High Court on Thursday directed the concerned authorities to inform all airport authorities not to harass Sarah Thomas, an NRI from Dubai, detained by immigration officials here in a case of mistaken identity, lodged in prison and later handed over to Kerala Police.

The Division Bench, comprising Justices S Tamilvanan and T Mathivanan, gave the direction when a Habeas Corpus Petition filed by her son, seeking to punish the officers concerned for arresting and detaining his mother illegally, came up for hearing today.

A counter affidavit was filed by the Assistant Foreigners Regional Registration Officer, Chennai International Airport today, stating that Sarah Thomas had changed her name from Saramma Thomas when she applied for a fresh passport.

It was a genuine mistake and not wantonly committed by the Department, he said.

The bench noted that the RPO, Thiruvanathapuram, in its November 14 2014 order, had given police clearance certificate that Sarah Thomas, holder of Indian passport issued at Dubai on October 20, 2011 had nothing to do with the search for one Sarah Williams and there was no adverse information against her.

It was also clear there was a mistaken identity of the arrest of Sarah Thomas instead of Sarah Williams and it was revealed by the certificate by Superintendent of Police, Crime Branch CID of Economic Offences Wing I of Kollam district in Kerala.

"Therefore, it is directed that the Superintendent, Regional Passport Office, Trivandrum, shall inform the same to all airpor Airport authorities concerned, not to harass the petitioner's mother Sarah Thomas as there is no adverse information against her," the judges said.

The bench then posted the matter for hearing to tomorrow.

Sarah Thomas, who had appeared before the Court on earlier occasions, sought an assurance that a similar incident does not recur in India or elsewhere in future.

She was detained by immigration officials and later arrested on October 29 when she came to attend the marriage of her colleague in Madurai. She was lodged in Puzhal prison and then handed over to Punalur Police of Kerala.

The matter pertains to a case filed against one Sara Williams by police at Punalur in Kerala. They came to Chennai on information and arrested Sarah Thomas.

The immigration officials, Chennai police and Kerala police had committed a 'series of blunders' in assuming she was Sara Williams who was absconding for 13 years in a cheating case. It was only after spot verification and statement from the original fugitive's parents themselves that Kerala police realized their mistake.