Shivnarayan Pandey, the taxi driver whose testimony got the death penalty for three of the prime accused in the 2003 Gateway blast case, has ceased to exist.
Pandey is the first and only example of the Mumbai police protecting a key witness in a case. Following his providential escape from the blast in his taxi, which killed 11 people and injured over 50, Pandey rushed to the Colaba police station.
Then additional commissioner of police (crime) Rakesh Maria was quick to see Pandey’s importance in identifying the bombers, as well as the threat to his life from those terrorists.
An elaborate strategy was chalked out for Pandey’s protection. To begin with, overnight, Pandey and his family were moved from their hut in Samta Nagar to a government house at an unknown location.
After ensuring Pandey got his damaged taxi’s insurance money, the police arranged for Pandey’s employment with a city builder, as his driver. Even the builder does not know Pandey’s true identity.
“We took every precaution to erase his past identity,” said an officer in the team that was formed for Pandey’s safety. Even during his court appearances, very few knew what Pandey looked like.
The officer said that following the judgement, Pandey and his family were sent back to his village in Uttar Pradesh on holiday. He now has a new name, a new passport and – when he returns from his holiday – a new job.