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Repairer alleges police connived with ship owner

A ship repairer has approached the Bombay High Court claiming that a barge company owner got him arrested in a fake case and has accused senior police officers of connivance.

Thirty five year-old Ship repairer Ramesh Shukla said barge company owner Vali Mohammed Khakhra gave him the job of repairing five barges but paid him only a part of the total amount. Shukla claimed he is yet to receive Rs 72 lakh (excluding interest) for the job. After he repaired four barges and was working on the fifth, a payment-related dispute emerged. Khakhra alleged that Shukla stole the fifth barge and approached the police. Shukla, on the other hand, claimed that Khakhra registered a false case because he didn't want to pay him, and that police officers are involved, too.


The barge in question

The case
Shukla, proprietor of SRC Marine Engineers, a ship-repairing firm at Darukhana, wrote to Addl CP, South region on February 2, alleging that, in March 2009, Khakhra, proprietor of M/s Vali Marine Transport, approached him for the repairs of five barges — Hamraj-1, 2 and 3, Aqua and Suraj (the copy of the letter is with Sunday Mid day). Shukla received a part payment of Rs 42 lakh of the total Rs 1.14 crore for the repair of four barges until the dispute arose. According to Shukla, Khakhra had promised to pay the rest after the barge named Suraj was repaired and handed over, but started delaying the payment.

Khakhra’s threat
Shukla claims that, on the night of November 8, 2011, the barge Suraj went missing. The morning after, he found it a few metres from the repair spot and tugged at it to bring it back. Shukla then claims that Khakhra threatened him for taking the barge away. After the argument, Shukla and Khakhra approached Sewri police station to register a cross complaint, but police asked them to resolve the matter amicably.

However, Shukla later claimed that between December 6, 2011 and January 1, 2012, both were summoned by the Senior PI, Sewri police station, ACP and DCP (Port Zone), who heard them out and instructed that statements be recorded.


Complainant Ramesh Shukla

Shukla arrested
On January 12, 2012, Shukla was summoned to the police station. “I was shocked to know that I was being arrested for stealing the barge, Suraj, on the basis of a false complaint lodged by Khakhra two months prior to my arrest. I was produced before the Magistrate Court, Dadar, on January 13, 2012 and was released on a cash bond of Rs 20,000.”

Shukla added, “Khakhra himself issued a work completion certificate (WCC) for Rs 1 crore on October 14, 2011. The police did not take cognisance of my written complaint against Khakhra for non-payment of dues, hence I approached the Bombay High court to quash the FIR.” 

Police’s suspicious role
After Shukla submitted his letter in court, Addl CP Krishna Prakash appointed PI Anil Sardal of Sewree police station to conduct a probe and submit his report. Sardal, in his report on April 16 (a copy of which is with Sunday Mid Day), raised concerns over the role of the DCP, who had called both Khakhra and Shukla to his office and directed that a criminal case be registered against Shukla, when the matter was actually a civil one. He also suspected that officers might have been bribed. In the report, he concluded that the roles of DCP Tanaji Ghadge Senior PI Bharat Gaykwad and investigating officer API KV Aware were suspicious and, as a PI rank officer, Gaykwad couldn’t conduct the probe further and asked for the case to be given to a senior official.

The case was transferred to DCP (Zone 2) Nissar Tamboli and a copy of Sardal’s report was submitted to the Bombay High Court.

The case was heard on October 17 before the division bench of Justices A Oka and S Jadhav. The additional public prosecutor was asked to check the genuineness of the documents, after which the action taken by Addl CP on the basis of the report would be checked. The matter was adjourned till November 2.

According to the petitioner’s lawyer, AK Phatak, “On November 2, the court directed Shukla to approach a lower court and file a discharge application. We will move a criminal writ petition against police officers seperately in the HC for the alleged role in the fake case.”

‘I stuck to the agreement’
Khakhra said, “I never gave Shukla all five barges at a time to repair and paid him as agreed upon, but Shukla cheated me and took away the barge Suraj. We had agreed on certain terms and conditions and Shukla should have charged me accordingly. His claims are baseless.” When asked about the WCC issued by him to Shukla, Khakhra acknowledged that he did give him a certificate, but claimed he was told that it was needed for a tender submission and was given to him in good faith.

Official speak
Meanwhile, addl CP Prakash said, “I am still inquiring into the case. Even the court has directed for an inquiry into the matter.”

DCP Ghadge calls “Shukla’s claims “baseless”. He is accused in a case of theft. He has been chargesheeted and trial shall commence soon.” On the confidential report he said, “The report has no value, as proper administrative procedure was not followed by Sardal.”

DCP (Zone 2) Tamboli confirmed that he was inquiring into the matter and that he would not be able to make any statement at the moment.

ACP (Wadala division), DD Waghmare said, “The report is addressed to Addl CP and an inquiry is in process, I cannot make any comment.”

PI Sardal, too, said, “The report has been submitted, I cannot speak any further.”

Senior PI Gaykwad, was unavailable for comment. 

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