Indian Postal Worker Spent Half His Life Fighting $1 Theft Charge

| by Allison Geller

An Indian postal worker spent nearly 30 years in and out of court to clear his name after being charged with stealing less than $1 on the job.

In 1984, Umakant Mishra was working at a post office in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh when one day he was hit with a fraud charge.

"I was given 697 rupees and 60 paise ($11.19) which the post-office had received as money orders and I had to distribute it. I distributed 300 rupees and in the evening deposited the rest with a senior official," explained to BBC Hindi.

The refund was found short 57 rupees and 60 paise, or 92 cents.

"I was charged with fraud. I was suspended from my services and a complaint was lodged with the police."

Mishra is now demanding compensation after a legal battle that is nothing short of Kafkaesque. After being briefly jailed and released on bail, Mishra was summoned to court 348 times over the past three decades to further his case.

His family spent all their resources to establish Mishra's innocence, resorting to borrowing heavily to pya for their children’s education and marriages.

“Initially I had to sell my house in Kanpur, then I had to sell my agricultural land in Hardoi district. I went bankrupt."

Odd jobs and relatives who "helped me and provided me with shelter" got Mishra’s family through the past 29 years.

Now, he has finally been absolved of all charges. The prosecution could not produce any witnesses to testify against Mishra.

"I was suspended when I was in my 30s. Now that I have been absolved, I should be compensated. I should get all the money that is due to me," he said.

Justice has come at huge personal cost.

"I retired three years ago and remained suspended for nearly 26 years. I have no idea what to say or do,” he told the Times of India, in tears.

His wife Geeta called the situation “apathy at its worst.”

"I am relieved and happy with the verdict, but if we'd got justice at the right time, our children's career wouldn't have got ruined. We lived with the stigma and financial trouble for so long that our future is destroyed," she said.

Mishra is sadly lucky that his complaint reached any resolution at all. According to BBC correspondents, there are currently more than 30 million cases pending in Indian courts. Some date as far back as 1950.

Sources: to BBC Hindi, Times of India