"Tum idhar ruko, main tera warrant lekar aata hoon (you wait here, I will get your warrant)” was the instruction assistant sub-inspector Sanjay Deshmukh allegedly gave Afzal Usmani before walking into the courtroom.
Unsurprisingly, the hardened Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative, who has managed an escape in 2008 too, wasted no time in disregarding this order – after all it was an opportunity for freedom.
What followed was a wild goose chase by the Mumbai police and the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), who have so far drawn a blank in apprehending him.
A senior police official, on condition of anonymity, has revealed details of Deshmukh’s statement in which hed narrates the sequence of events.
“After lunch we were waiting outside the court and awaiting our turn (21 of them were being produced). The corridor leading to the courtroom was jam-packed so I told Usmani to wait in the corridor while I went inside the court to get the warrant,” Deshmukh has said in his statement.
The corridor, located on the fifth floor of the building, is ‘L’ shaped. While Deshmukh and Usmani were waiting at the horizontal stretch, the courtroom is on the vertical stretch, at a distance of five to seven metres from where the duo was standing.
As per rules, an escort always accompanies the accused. But Usmani was not handcuffed and then he was left alone.
There were other policemen, but they were all busy guarding the other accused and nobody seems to have realised that when Usmani fled.
Explaining Deshmukh’s decision to leave the accused unguarded, the official said: “Often, a policeman develops trust when the accused obeys his instructions and behaves well over a period of time.
What police escorts don’t realise is that a prisoner who has plans to escape will seize any opportunity. This appears to be what happened in this case.”
The officer said they have cross-checked ASI Deshmukh’s version of the events that took place with the other police escorts who were present and have found no discrepancy.
When there is suspicion that the accused may attempt to flee during a court appearance, permission is obtained from the respective court to put handcuffs in court premises.
“This is an option that should be explored by the police when bringing those involved in serious crimes such as terrorism,” the official added.