After deposing MLAs Kshitij Thakur and Ram Kadam and API Sachin Suryavanshi, the seven-member legislative committee appointed to probe the traffic cop’s thrashing at Vidhan Bhavan quizzed three police officers involved with the investigation of the incident yesterday.
Crime Branch inspector Anil Naik and Marine Drive police’s senior inspector Rajendra Patil and inspector Vilas Sawant are believed to have been questioned over the registration of FIR against the accused MLAs, their arrest orders and the course of further investigations. The cops also faced questions on their decision to reach Vidhan Bhavan for arresting the MLAs on March 21 and their actions pertaining to the entire episode.
As has earlier been reported by MiD DAY, the appointment of the committee headed by the senior-most member of the state assembly Ganpatrao Deshmukh of Peasants and Workers Party and comprising senior legislators from Congress, NCP, BJP, Shiv Sena and MNS and Independent MLAs -has had a dulling effect on the Crime Branch probe. After MLAs Kadam and Thakur were freed on bail following their arrest in the incident, the investigations have practically come to a standstill.
“Ever since the legislative panel began its probe, the Crime Branch probe has hardly witnessed any progress,” a source close to the developments said. The panel has so far quizzed Suryavanshi, the five suspended MLAs -Kadam, Thakur, Jaikumar Rawal, Pradip Jaiswal and Rajan Salvi and security officers at Vidhan Bhavan. It has also examined the CCTV network and seen the footage of the episode.
Sources say two developments might tilt the balance in the case, which has so far accrued immense public and police sympathy for the cop. First, the probe panel has decided to zero in on the cell phone used by traffic cop Suryavanshi to film his altercation with MLA Kshitij Thakur on the sea link. The API had fined Thakur for speeding after a heated argument and the day after, he was beaten up in the state assembly complex by a bunch of MLAs.
Suryavanshi has said that the cell phone with the recording of the incident was given to him by a friend and has gone missing since the episode, while his friend, the cell phone owner, has gone back to his native village in Sangli. The panel wants to look deeper into this story.
Second, the committee has decided to go into the details of the medical treatment given to the cop at St George Hospital, to establish the severity of the injuries he sustained. Suryavanshi’s alleged misdemeanour with MLA Kshitij Thakur at the sea link and with other MLAs at Vidhan Bhavan may put him in a spot. His medical report and the unavailability of crucial CCTV footage may also work against him.
Report next week
The report of the committee is expected early next week. It will be tabled in the state legislature soon after. The outcome is likely to revolve around the theory that MLAs mistook API Suryavanshi for one of the security officials who was making objectionable gestures at them from the visitors’ gallery of Vidhan Bhavan, and therefore rushed towards him in anger.
The thrashing episode of March 19 has escalated into an ego war between the political class and the police force, with the government headed by Congressman Prithviraj Chavan being caught in the grind. It is under pressure from the IPS lobby and at the receiving end of the wrath of legislators.