In what can be termed as a glaring instance of lack of co-ordination between the Mumbai police and it’s neighbouring Thane police, a criminal allegedly from the Ravi Pujari gang not only managed to get a passport but also a licensed firearm from Thane despite being chargesheeted in an extortion case in Mumbai.
Thane police commissioner, KP Raghuvanshi, when informed about the incident, said that he will order an inquiry into the incident. “This is a serious matter. I will order an inquiry to find out how it happened and who are responsible for it,” he said.
The matter first came to light on March 7, when the anti-extortion cell (AEC) of the Mumbai police crime branch arrested Prasad Shetty alias Vittala, 39. The police said Shetty had been demanding Rs50 lakh as ransom from a Chembur-based businessman on behalf of Pujari.
Following his arrest, the AEC learned that Shetty had, in 1999, tried to extort money from a Dindoshi businessman. The trial of the case is still on.
When they raided his flat in Thane (West), officials said they found his passport issued by the regional passport office in Thane in 2007. They also found a licensed 7.65 mm (32 bore) automatic pistol and 14 live rounds from his house. The firearm and the ammunition had been issued to Shetty by the Thane police for self-protection.
Officials said when the AEC asked Shetty why he needed a firearm, he replied saying he travelled frequently between Shil Phata and Thane at night and perceived a threat to his life.
When a person applies for a firearm licence, the local police have to collect information about the applicant’s antecedents (by checking up with the police where he lived earlier) and confirm his address proof. At times, the help of the special branch (as in cases of the police commissionerates) or the state intelligence department (SID) is also sought, which was not done in Shetty’s case.
Shetty is presently lodged in jail after he was booked under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), subsequent to his arrest by the AEC.