It is the men in khaki we look to when we’re in trouble. But how impartial are the police really?
A case heard at the Kurla sessions court on Tuesday points to the illegal means sometimes used by the police. The court acquitted three young men charged with attempt to commit dacoity. “It’s a clear case of faulty investigations. One can’t believe it,” said Sessions Judge KP Purohit.
Two witnesses in the case were being used in 11 other cases. The fact was unravelled by one of the accused in the case who cross-examined one of the witnesses in the absence of their lawyer.
The three accused — Pratap Paswan (21), Jitendra Pal (19) and Amar Waghmare (23) — spent seven months in custody for a crime they never committed. The court acquitted the trio of all charges the Deonar police had levelled against them. The detailed court order would be issued shortly.
After his acquittal, Paswan, who the police had portrayed as the gang leader, said: “I was a fruit vendor. Never in my dreams had I imagined that I would be charged with a dacoity attempt or of theft.”
"The police booked me in a wrong case. I had come to Mumbai from Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh to make it big here and support my family back home. But now I will return home by the first train," he said. Pal and Waghmare expressed similar views.
Assistant Police Inspector (API) Prashant Pandarinath Raje of Deonar police station had arrested the trio on June 9, allegedly from near the Govandi crematorium.
The police claimed they had specific information that the three were planning a dacoity, following which they were arrested. The police also claimed to have seized a revolver and other weapons from them.
The panchnama (seizure record) was made in presence of two independent witnesses, Sanjay Dabhade and Raju Gaikwad. The accused were sent to Thane Central jail. There, Paswan came in contact with the other accused who were also arrested by Raje from the same spot and under the same charges.
In their cases, too, Raje had used Dabhade and Gaikwad as independent witnesses. Paswan also learnt from Pal and Waghmare that the Deonar police were using the two paanchs (independent witnesses) in 10 other cases. Paswan then called for chargesheets of the cases. He then informed the court about the wrongdoings of the police.
Since the three accused were not represented by any lawyer, the accused cross-examined Dabhade in person. A copy of the cross-examination, which is with Hindustan Times, shows that Dabhade had agreed to act as an independent witness in 11 cases registered by the Deonar police.