Man gets jail for leaving hotel room during stay-home notice to get food from woman he took flight with
SINGAPORE: While serving his stay-home notice at a Singapore hotel after arriving from India, a man left his room to get food from a woman he had just met.
Bojanki Suresh Naidu, 37, and Bharati Tulshiram Choudhari, 48, were each sentenced to three weeks' jail on Tuesday (Aug 17).
The Indian nationals and Singapore permanent residents pleaded guilty to one count each of breaching conditions of their stay-home notice. Suresh had a second charge taken into consideration.
The court heard that the pair were on the same flight from India to Singapore on Mar 14, 2021. They did not know each other before the flight.
India was experiencing a second wave of COVID-19 infections at the time, noted Deputy Public Prosecutor Kenneth Kee. He added that the Delta variant that was first reported in India is more transmissible, with an increased risk of hospitalisation.
Suresh was a logistics lead with pharmaceutical company Novartis at the time, while Bharati was unemployed.
When they arrived at Changi Airport Terminal 1, they were individually served a 14-day stay home notice by an Immigration and Checkpoints Authority officer. They were briefed on the conditions of the notice, including not being able to leave their rooms or have visitors.
The pair were taken to Oasia Hotel Novena and given separate rooms. They spoke for the first time when Suresh dialled Bharati's hotel room number and they exchanged phone numbers.
Sometime before Mar 20, the pair came up with a plan for Suresh to meet Bharati in her hotel room. This was purportedly for Suresh to collect snacks from Bharati and to chat.
He left his room without wearing a mask at about 12.30am on Mar 20, and stayed in Bharati's room for about half an hour.
Suresh later found that he could not get back into his own room. He returned to Bharati's room and stayed outside for a while before calling the hotel staff for help outside his room.
When a security officer asked how he got locked out of his room, Suresh lied that he had difficulties breathing and had left to get fresh air.
The officer unlocked the door for Suresh, but the matter was referred to ICA for investigation.
Suresh claimed he had drunk two cans of beer and began to feel suffocated while confined in his hotel room. It was then that he left to take a walk for fresh air, he said.
Later on, he lied that he knocked on Bharati's door for help before he was allowed in.
Bharati also lied by claiming that she heard a knock on her door and opened it to find Suresh standing outside. She said Suresh told her he was feeling suffocated and panicky.
However, closed-circuit television footage of the hotel corridor showed what actually happened.
POTENTIAL FOR HARM WAS HIGH: PROSECUTOR
The prosecutor asked for three to four weeks' jail for each of the accused, noting that the potential for harm was high as the Delta variant had resulted in "record-breaking numbers of infections and deaths" in that period in India.
"Given the potential for COVID-19 to spread via asymptomatic transmission and having travelled internationally from a country afflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic prior to their entry into Singapore, coupled with the SHN (stay-home notice) and the attendant requirements that were imposed upon them, the accused persons each had reason to suspect that Suresh was a carrier of COVID-19," said the prosecutor.
Bharati apologised to the court and said she made an "honest mistake by allowing Suresh in my room after a phone call".
"I'm staying in Singapore since 11 years and have never done any wrong act which has brought embarrassment to my family," she said. "I realise that I should have handled the situation in a better way. I have learned a lesson."
Suresh also apologised, saying he has been in Singapore for several years and has a wife and children. He said he was a "responsible citizen" who helped out at a community centre and was "fully aware of strict Singapore laws".
He also said he was very tired and very hungry on the day of the incident and knew Bharati had food.
"I contacted her if I could have it. We did not know each other until that day I made that call. We are not friends, she is 10 years older than me and she was kind (enough) to (give) the food upon the request," he said.
Suresh apologised for how the situation has troubled Bharati and her family and said his COVID-19 test results came back negative.
He also said he had lied out of "fear" and "panic".
The judge allowed them to begin their jail terms on a later date as requested.