The papers went missing in August last year; if the hit-and-run case of 2002 reached a conclusion yesterday, it’s because of the efforts of Assistant Sub-Inspector Dinesh Patkar and his colleagues at Bandra police station
Twelve years and numerous hearings later, the Salman Khan hit-and-run case finally ended yesterday with the Sessions court pronouncing the actor guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
Salman Khan. Pic/Bipin Kokate
Amidst the jubilation being expressed by the prosecution, one cannot forget to point out the efforts of a cop from Bandra police station who brought the case back from the brink of collapse.
Dinesh M Patkar, assistant sub-inspector at Bandra police station, was entrusted with the task of locating the missing documents
In August 2014, while the Sessions court was recording statements of witnesses in the case, in which it was trying the actor for freshly added charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, it was brought to the notice of the judge that a set of 56 out of 63 crucial documents pertaining to the trial were missing.
The missing papers were found in this room, in the upper shelf of the rack behind the door to the cabin
These papers included statements of witnesses, panchnama, and the station diary entry of Bandra police station. A diary entry is a note made by the station officer immediately after being apprised of the incident.
Salman Khan leaves his Bandra residence on his way to the Sessions court yesterday. Pic/Satyajit Desai
With these papers missing, the actor’s lawyer, Shrikant Shivade, argued in court that the case could no longer be tried because the original papers were untraceable. Moreover, as witnesses turned hostile the prosecution could see its case imploding.
The Mumbai Police had already earned the ire of the court and the citizenry at large, for its lax handling of such vital documents; there were accusations of bribery. The court had given them a month’s time to find the documents.
Following court orders, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone IX) Satyanarayan Chaudhary, who had just taken charge, formed a team. D M Patkar, assistant sub-inspector at Bandra police station, was entrusted with the task of locating the missing documents.
“I have been in charge of the record room in Bandra police station since August 2013. Satyanarayan Chaudhury sir, my deputy commissioner of police, called me to his cabin and informed me about the missing case papers and its importance to the case.
He gave me the responsibility of tracing the documents along with other team members,” Patkar said. The team comprised three other cops: Sub-Inspector Shekdar, Assistant Inspector Dukande and Constable Pange, all from Bandra police station.
Bandra police station was undergoing renovation at that time, and it was difficult to find anything at its intended place. “We browsed through the records in each and every officer’s room and also the record room. Not a single rack or cupboard at the police station was left out,” said Patkar. For 60 hours, the team laboured on in their quest to find the elusive documents.
On August 26, the team reached the cabin of Police Inspector (Administration) Kamble in the afternoon. The administration officer of every police station clears paperwork or gives permissions for local processions. Finding the documents related to a criminal trial here was akin to clutching at straws. Yet, not wanting to leave any stone unturned, the four cops entered the room.
“Behind the door in Kamble’s cabin, there was a rack. In the upper shelf, we found a bundle of papers wrapped in a piece of red cloth. The bundle had gathered a thick layer of dust. We opened it and there was a big smile on everyone’s faces. This was what we had been looking for, since the last 60 hours,” Patkar recalled.
A delighted Patkar informed DCP Chaudhary, who passed on the news to Commissioner of Police Rakesh Maria. The cop congratulated the entire team for helping the force to save face. Preliminary investigations into the misplacement of the case papers revealed that they had last been kept in the possession of one constable Chavan, who was assistant to the former senior police inspector at Bandra police station.
After the court hearing, Chavan tabled the papers before the senior inspector and was supposed to deposit them back to the record room. However, Chavan kept it in his senior’s cabin from where they were misplaced during refurbishment work.
Milind Bharambe, joint commissioner of police, Mumbai Traffic division, was then the additional commissioner of police (west region). Recalling the search for the papers, he said, “We were continuously monitoring the situation and would take reviews every day. Patkar led the efforts to find the case papers.”
Everybody pitched in
Besides tracing the papers, the police also had other equally difficult tasks of locating witnesses. Milind Bharambe, then additional commissioner of police (west region), told mid-day, “Many of the witnesses in the case were missing and tracing them was next to impossible.
We brought several witnesses from Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka where they had settled now. We did this swiftly without making any noise and that helped us a lot.” Rajendra Kane, police inspector (crime), had visited these two states and succeeded in bringing the witnesses, many of whom had changed addresses, to testify in court. Around 27 witnesses testified in court.
Deputy Inspector General (Prisons) Bipin Kumar Singh, who was the DCP (Zone XI) in 2002, had supervised the case. He said, “ I am very happy with the court’s verdict. All our efforts have paid off. This was a high-profile case and we had built it on the basis of scientific and technical evidence.”