The dark side of Mumbai police was exposed in the trial of a gangster’s murder after the only prosecution witness, a woman, told the court that Versova cops had forced her to implicate four men of the crime by threatening to book her in a fabricated case. The court acquitted the accused in the absence of any other evidence produced by the prosecution.
According to witness Poonam’s testimony, Saroj Maurya, 30, Musharaf Qureshi, 26, Mohmad Badshah, 22, and Ganesh Kirkira, 23, kidnapped her on February 2 last year because of an enmity with her husband Rakesh, and took her to a hideout in Andheri.
Maurya, a dacoit with a criminal record, then called Rakesh’s close friend Banaut, a gangster, to the place. The testimony states that they offered him drinks and then asked him about Rakesh’s whereabouts.
Poonam in her statement before a magistrate also stated that Maurya and his friends gave Benaut a sedative-laden paan, and when he lost consciousness, started torturing him. One cut the veins on his legs, while another inflicted burns on his face and hands. The medical reports produced by the prosecution showed that there were cuts on Benaut’s legs and the back.
Poonam had stated that the four tortured him until morning, and when he died, they disposed of his body nearby and threatened her not to inform the police.
The enmity between Maurya and Rakesh began after Poonam left him for the latter. According to the prosecution, she met Rakesh when he came to live with them and the two fell in love. When Maurya learnt about the affair, he got into a fight with Rakesh, who left the house to stay with Banaut. Poonam followed him sometime later, fuelling deep enmity between the two men.
Poonam was made a star witness, but when she was cross-examined by defence advocate Vishal Ingawale, she confessed that she had been forced to give the statement by the police.
The court thereafter observed, “The statement clearly reveals that she became a puppet in the hands of police. When the case is centered around a solitary statement, and when that statement does not inspire confidence, the result is inevitable.”
The court, while acquitting the accused on February 6, observed, “Even though the brutal murder took place, the benefit has to be given to the accused persons.”
The Versova police, however, refuted the allegation. “Poonam's statement was first recorded by a magistrate. Why did she not complain to the magistrate?" asked senior inspector Nandkumar Mitkar of Versova police station. "Poonam's allegation is baseless. We will move an appeal against the acquittals," he said.