Mumbai: Man files complaint against temple trustees who 'framed' him for chariot's theft
The 330-kg chariot, believed to be crafted from silver and wood, went missing from a Jain temple in 2016; plaintiff files cross-complaint against trustees who had blamed him for it
Two years after a 330-kg silver chariot was stolen from the Sambhavnath Jain temple in Borivli West, the temple trustees continue to rat(h) on each other for the crime.
Former temple secretary Mahendra Jain, 54, spent nine months in jail after fellow trustees accused him of stealing the chariot. Now that he is out on bail, he has registered a counter-complaint against them in court, resulting in a second FIR against nine trustees.
He told the court that he was framed by the nine in a conspiracy to grab control of the temple trust. He presented documents - audit reports and minutes from the temple trust's meetings - to show that he was on sick leave at the time of the incident, at which point the chariot was under the custody of the very trustees who had blamed him. Based on this, the court instructed the Borivli police to register a fresh case against the other trustees - Harakchand Savla, Shantilal Puria, Prakash Shah, Ashok Jain, Chandrakant Doshi, Chetan Shah, Bharat Shah, Snehal Shah and Paresh Shah.
The silver chariot went missing from Sambhavnath Jain temple in Borivli West in 2016
The chariot, along with an Indra dhwaj, was built in 1994-96 by a former trustee. It weighed around 330 kg, including the wooden portions. According to Mahendra, though, there are no records on whether the metal used in the rath was silver or not. As the chariot aged, the trust decided to break it and build a new one. The chariot was broken in the year 2014, at which time workers extracted 76 kg of metal from it. The metal was kept in the temple godown.
'It wasn't me'
In June 2016, Mahendra was admitted in hospital due to a stoke, and remained on bed rest for the rest of the year. He claimed that the chariot went missing in this period. "In the meantime, without consulting anyone or conducting an election, Shantilal Puria became the president of the temple, and Ashok Jain and Harakchand Savla were appointed as secretary. Everything happened in my absence; these people are responsible and they framed me for the theft, following which I had to spend nine months in the jail," alleged Mahendra.
Till December 2016, the metal remained in the custody of temple, as mentioned in the minutes of the committee meeting. Around 32 people had signed the minutes.
The other side
However, one of the accused, Snehal said, "Mahendra has misguided the court with false documents. 27 kg of silver was recovered by the Borivli police, so if he was not the accused, how did the cops find the silver?
"Since his release, Mahendra has created nuisance and threatened the temple trustees, including me. I have registered a complaint against him at the police station. Today he is denying the chariot is made of silver, but each and every audit report signed by him mentions silver."
Fellow accused, Harakchand Savla, added, "The audit reports signed by Mahendra over the years mention the value and weight of the chariot."
"During our investigation, we had recovered 27 kg of silver from Mahendra. The other trustees wanted us to find more, claiming the chariot weighed 330 kg, but they failed to produce papers to prove this," said one of the former investigating officers in the case.
He added, "After he got bail, Mahendra complained against the trustees, and the court issued and the order to register an FIR under the IPC." An officer from Borivli police station confirmed that they registered a fresh FIR on November 4.
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