Mumbai: Stolen mangalsutra of young couple exposes Goregaon cops' 36-year cover-up
Follow-ups over their stolen mangalsutra by a young couple opens a can of worms dating back to 1983
A couple's repeated rounds to the police station to enquire about their stolen mangalsutra set off a chain of events that led to the discovery that 124 recovered articles have gone missing from the Goregaon police station's safe. The articles, including gold, jewellery, cash, narcotics, etc, pertain to cases dating back to 1983. Head Constable Abaji Arjun, who was in charge of the safe, has been suspended and the Crime Branch has opened a wider probe under Section 409 of the Indian Penal Code (criminal breach of trust by a public servant.) Arjun has denied any wrongdoing.
Goregaon resident Sawmya Ajith, 33, had her gold mangalsutra snatched by two motorcycle-borne men on April 13, 2018, near Ozone Swimming Pool, a day before the auspicious Malayali New Year, Vishu. With no progress in the case, Ajith got a friend to file a Right To Information query seeking the number of chain-snatching cases registered and the number of people arrested in Goregaon since 2018. When the station failed to respond, the file was sent to the zonal Deputy Commissioner of Police Sangramsinh Nishandar in November 2018.
"DCP Nishandar heard us out and directed the station to expedite the investigation," said Ajith. "The police told the couple in December that they have arrested the accused and asked us to approach the metropolitan magistrate court in Borivli to get an order to return the property. On May 2, 67th court Magistrate G P Bawaskar directed the police to return the property." Crucially, the police did not show the chain to Ajith at the station or court. Criminal lawyer Rajeshwar Panchal said Criminal Procedure Code's Section 457 mandates that the investigating police officer must submits the recovered property before the Magistrate. "This is a serious lapse and the court may take note of the same. The accused also could benefit during the trial," said Panchal.
And, when Ajith visited the police station the next day with the court order, he was told the chain was missing and asked to come later. After two months passed, Ajith's friend Mohan Krishnan filed another RTI seeking the status on the court order. That is when the police station was exposed. In his reply, Inspector Jaywant Pawar said several recovered items kept in the station safe between 1983 and 2018 were missing. "The officers, instead of informing Ajith, made him run around to get a court order for return of property," said Krishnan. "Even after he got the order, they still didn't tell him the truth and told him to come after a few days. It is only because of the RTI pressure that they were compelled to admit their blunder."
Senior Police Inspector Chimaji Adhav of Crime Branch Unit 11, said that besides Arjun, they are also questioning other policemen who were in charge of the safe since 1983. "We have found that a lot of information about recovered property that should be in the station register is missing," said Adhav. "We have sought reports from the courts. The biggest challenge is that the old registers are discarded and constables who were in charge of the safe over time have retired." Asked about Sawmya's chain, he said, "They will have to wait till the investigation is completed and the trial is over."
Day Sawmya Ajith's gold chain was snatched
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