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Wednesday, Oct 23, 2019

Cops nab Mumbai auto driver, friend who molested passenger, threw her out of vehicle

Mumbai city news: One of the accused tried to mislead the police by registering a missing persons complaint about himself

mumbai Updated: Jul 07, 2017 09:15 IST
Megha Pol
Megha Pol
Hindustan Times
Police with the seized auto on Wednesday.
Police with the seized auto on Wednesday.(HT File Photo)

Thane police arrested the autorickshaw driver and his friend who allegedly molested a co-passenger — a 23-year-old dietician — in an auto on June 7. Police have also seized the vehicle MH04 FC 2518. Both men were drunk at the time of the incident, said cops.

Last week, the woman had hailed a a shared auto going from Teen Hath Naka towards Ghodbunder. Her co-passenger, Santosh Namdev Lokhande, 38, allegedly molested her while the driver, Lahoo Ghogare Ghogare, 39, diverted the auto towards Pokharan Road. They threw the girl out of the running auto when she raised an alarm. They also destroyed her mobile phone so police could not trace it.

How the accused were nabbed
  • After police failed to trace the accused within 48 hours of the incident, they formed 10 teams to trace the culprits. They searched around 2,500 autos across the city.
  • Police also released two sketches based on the woman’s descriptions of her attackers. “We examined the CCTV camera footage of around 20 places, including the junction and malls. We technically analysed the date, used human intelligence and put our informers to work,” said Madhukar Pandey, joint commissioner of police.
  • Police put themselves in the accused’s place and tried to determine their next moves. Police also traced the phone records of the accused to the scene and timing of the crime.

Police said Lokhande and Ghogare are history sheeters. The Wagale police had registered a case of rioting against Ghogare in 2006 and booked Lokhande for assault in 2004.

Neither man returned home after the incident. The next day, Lokhande’s wife tried to mislead the police by registering a missing persons complaint against her husband at the Wagale Estate police station, said Madhukar Pandey, joint commissioner of police. He added that they will ascertain whether she was involved and charge her accordingly.

Police formed 10 teams and searched 1,500 to 2,000 autos in Thane. They released two sketches based on the woman’s description. They also examined CCTV camera footage.

After failing to find leads for a week, police received a tip-off, which led them to Lokhande. “Police traced Lokhande to Civil Hospital, where he was admitted with a liver ailment. He planned to flee the hospital on June 13. The police nabbed him in time. He confessed and told us where Ghogare was,” said Pandey.

Police laid a trap for Ghogare outside his house and arrested him. As he did not match the sketches, police relied on the woman, who confirmed that he was the co-passenger who tried to molest her.

“Both men said they did not molest the woman but were instead trying to snatch her gold chain. We do not believe them,” said Pandey.

Police also traced the phone records of the accused to the scene and timing of the crime. The men were booked under sections 363, 354, 506 (2) and 34 of the Indian Penal Code, which deal with kidnapping, sexual harassment, causing hurt and common intention.

Police said they will investigate whether the two men were involved in other incidents of harassment, in which women were forced to jump from moving autorickshaws.

Auto driver flouted norms

The auto driver neither displayed a photocopy of licence and auto permit in the vehicle, nor had a smart card bearing details of the autorickshaw. Under the Motor Vehicle Act, 1998, coloured photocopies of an autorickshaw permit should be displayed on each of the vehicle. Drivers who flout this norm will have to pay Rs500 and their licence will be cancelled for five days. Pandey said he will ensure that the rule is strictly implemented.

“We met regional transport officials and asked them ensure that auto drivers stick a copy of their identity card on the back of their seat. We will give them 10 days to follow the rule. After this, action will be taken. Women passengers who spot that such details are not prominently displayed can complain to us,” he said.

Past incidents

Techie Swapnali Lad, 25, jumped out of an autorickshaw on July 29, 2014, when she realised that the driver was taking her to an unknown location. She suffered severe brain injuries, slipped into coma and has no recollection of what happened that night. The driver got away scot-free.

On March 1, 2015, two women travelling from Thane to Bhiwandi jumped out of the moving rickshaw near Cadbury signal when the driver allegedly made obscene gestures in the mirror. Neither of them were injured.

On December 25, 2014, Kalyan-based software engineer Smita Ingle, 37, lost her balance and fell from an autorickshaw after a biker tried to snatch the bag on her lap. She sustained two fractures.

First Published: Jun 14, 2017 15:32 IST

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