Taking note of a case of police officers helping accused persons escape charges of robbery and dacoity, the Bombay High Court has directed a departmental inquiry to be initiated against the erring officers. The court has also ordered the entire case to be transferred to the Crime Branch.
According to the petition by Manojkumar Singh, his brother Vinod Singh had been working at Jai Ambe hotel in Manor on June 20. About 12.30 am, a local boy, Sunil was headed towards the west side of the Ahmedabad highway to urinate, when Deepak Mane, the main accused and 12 others allegedly assaulted him. They then brought him to the hotel, claiming to have thought he was a thief.
Vinod then confronted Mane, demanding to know on what grounds Mane had suspected him of being a thief without verifying. Angered by this, Mane allegedly abused and threatened him.
At 1.30 am that night, Vinod approached the Manor police station to register a complaint against the men, but was turned away.
The next morning, Vinod opened the hotel as usual at 6 am. About 11.30 am, Mane along with around 50 other men arrived in three cars and a dozen motorcycles, armed with sticks and iron rods.
They entered the hotel and destroyed most of the hotel’s furniture. They severely beat Vinod in full view of his workers, causing him serious internal injuries.
They then proceeded to rob Rs 8,000 in cash along with another Rs 1.5 lakh in cash from the cash box.
Even the paanwala outside was robbed of Rs 11,500.
Vinod approached the Manor police, who then directed him to get treated at Bhagwati Hospital, from which he was later shifted to Karuna Hospital due to the severity of his injuries. Meanwhile, Vinod’s older brother Sanjay, along with Manojkumar headed to the Manor police station to register a case.
However, they were told that a case of robbery and dacoity would not be taken. Instead, the officer on duty, VT Powar, suggested that they register a case of rioting. He even threatened them and said a case of robbery would be registered against Vinod if they insisted on robbery and dacoity charges being included in the FIR.
Ultimately, the brothers approached the Superintendent of Police for help. Under his directions, the FIR was finally registered for rioting, unlawful assembly, causing damage and dacoity, but the brothers’ troubles were not over. The officers then decided to fix the witnesses’ statements.
According to the petition, they had the accused’s relatives give statements saying no money had been robbed, and the charge of dacoity was incorrect.
A division bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and AR Joshi in their judgement observed, “There is serious doubt about the nature of investigation conducted by PI VT Powar; and on the basis of the so-called ‘evidence’ collated by him, he hastened to file a chargesheet against the accused, extricating them from their offence under Section 395 of the IPC for reasons best known to him.”
The court observed, “When we looked at the statements of the said witnesses, which have been produced before the concerned court along with the chargesheet, it is amply clear that those are stereotyped statements containing the same grammatical mistakes. The only difference about them is the name and date on which the statements of the concerned witnesses have been recorded by him.”
A week after the FIR was filed, Powar wrote to the Magistrate, asking him to delete the charge under Section 395 (dacoity). The court further added, “We fail to understand as to under which provision of law this application was filed by the investigating officer (IO) before the Magistrate.
That only shows the predetermined approach of the IO to extricate the accused from offence. Such approach by the IO as explained above is completely unacceptable and untenable in law.”
The court has now handed over the re-investigation of the entire case to an ACP of the crime branch.
The Court has also ordered the Magistrate to keep proceedings in the matter in abeyance till a new chargesheet is filed. Meanwhile, an inquiry has been ordered into the conduct of the police officers, including Powar. A progress report is to be produced before the court on August 30.