Sangli custodial death: Family allege accused cops carried out ‘contract’ killing; 7 more cops suspended

Aniket Kothale’s family have alleged that it was the owner of a shop selling bags, where Kothale worked, who plotted with suspended police sub-inspector (PSI) Yuvraj Kamte, to have him arrested in a fake robbery case.

pune Updated: Nov 10, 2017 23:40 IST
Shalaka Shinde
Shalaka Shinde
Hindustan Times, Pune
Sangli custodial death,Victim’s family,allege accused
Aniket Kothale's wife (right) shows their family photo at their house in Bhartnagar, Sangli.(UDAY DEOLEKAR/HT PHOTO)

Days after six policemen from Sangli were arrested for the custodial death of a suspect in a robbery case, and for burning his body to destroy evidence, family members of the deceased allege that the accused acted as “contract killers” on the instruction of a shop owner where the deceased was working.

As the police response to the case escalated, Additional DIGs Sanjeev Kumar and Bipin Bihari, along with Vishwas Nangre Patil, IG Kolhapur, met with relatives of the deceased man, Aniket Kothale. Late on Friday night seven more policemen were suspended.

On November 6, a police sub-inspector and five other police personnel of Sangli city police station were arrested for the alleged custodial death of a man accused of robbery and for trying to burn his body. The deceased, Aniket Kothale, 26, was arrested by Sangli city police along with another man, identified as Amol Bhandare, on November 6 for robbing a motorbike-borne man of ₹2,000 at knife point, a senior police officer said.

Aniket Kothale’s family have alleged that it was the owner of a shop selling bags, where Kothale worked, who plotted with suspended police sub-inspector (PSI) Yuvraj Kamte, to have him arrested in a fake robbery case. At the time of going to press, the Sangli police were at the shop questioning the owners.

Sandhya Kothale, the 25-year-old wife of the deceased, said that Aniket had been silent for the past five days prior to his arrest. “Aniket joined the bag shop on a salary of Rs 9,000 per month. The shop owner made him drink alcohol every night for almost a week. He used to tell Aniket that he is paying for it and at the end of October, he deducted money from Aniket’s salary,” Sandhya, a mother of a three-year-old told Hindustan Times. The shop owner refused to comment on the allegations despite repeated attempts by Hindustan Times.

“The shop owner wrongfully blamed Aniket of stealing from the shop. When Aniket asked him to prove it, they got into a physical fight which was seen by one of our relatives. A day after that, on Saturday, the police picked him up and tried to charge him in a false case of robbery, which did not stick. So they made another case in which he was arrested on Saturday,” Ashish Kothale, Aniket’s elder brother said.

The complaint of robbery was filed by Santosh Mahendra Gaikwad, 35, who had travelled to Sangli from Pune on Sunday night. Two people robbed him of his phone and Rs 2,000 outside the Sangli bus stand at knife-point. When asked if he had seen Aniket and identified him as one of the two who robbed him, he said, “Yes, I saw him on TV. He was definitely one of the two people.”

The second person in the robbery case, Amol Bhandare, 23, and the only witness in the murder case, was sent to judicial custody on Tuesday. “On Sunday, he (Aniket) left home around 9 am to explore a work opportunity. He did not answer his phone all day. He returned home around 8 pm, gave Rs 50 to our daughter and left again. The last time I spoke to him was 10 pm that night,” Sandhya said.

Aniket had started working after Class 9 and dropped out of school, his mother Alka Ashok Kothale, 50, said. “The way they beat my son, I want to see them being hit in the same way. I want the authorities to give them a severe punishment,” she said.

A sixth suspect in the murder case was remanded to 11 days of police custody on Friday evening at a local court in Sangli. Suspended Hawaldar Anil Sridhar Laad, 52, was taken to Sawantwadi near Amboli ghat where the policemen tried to burn the body, according to public prosecutor Vishakha Surendra Bharte. Laad’s Maruti Suzuki Celerio car was used to carry Kothale’s body to Amboli Ghat, according to the police report and advocate Bharte.

The Kothale family has approached the district collector, Vijay Kalam Patil, and submitted a letter informing him about the incident. “There is no law and order in this district. PSI Kamte was known for registering arbitrary cases. Even the station officer was aware of the happenings and still registered a case under section 224. We have written to the district magistrate and we demand a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) enquiry, formation of a law and order committee and the case to be tried in a fast track court,” said Gautum Pawar, local corporator.

First Published: Nov 10, 2017 23:32 IST