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Mumbai: 5 acquitted in death of child during Ganpati visarjan

Updated on: 17 January,2024 05:22 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Shirish Vaktania |

Police summoned panch at station, securing signatures on a pre-drafted panchnama

Mumbai: 5 acquitted in death of child  during Ganpati visarjan

Lalita Vaishnav, the deceased child

The Metropolitan Magistrate at Esplanade Court has acquitted five people of a Ganpati mandal who were booked and arrested by the Cuffe Parade police for alleged negligence after a four-year-old girl died when a parked Ganpati Visarjan trolley fell on her in 2019 at Colaba. During the investigation, it was found that the Cuffe Parade police submitted fake witnesses and also conducted the panchnama at the police station rather than at the spot. The father of the girl told mid-day that all the arrested accused were innocent, and this incident was only an accident; innocent people were arrested due to political pressure on the police.

Trolley that fell on the child
Trolley that fell on the child

The four-year-old girl, identified as Lalita Shravan Kumar Vaishnav, lived with her father and three sisters in the Colaba area. The court quashed the case against all five accused: Rajesh Meher, Ravindra Meher, Vinod Tandel, Ketan Tandel, and Avinash Tandel, all residents of  Bhandarkar Machhimar Vasahat Colaba.

According to the police, the incident occurred on April 12, 2019, when Lalita was playing with her friends in the Sagar Samrat Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal Ground at Macchimar Nagar on Prakash Pethe Marg in the Cuffe Parade area. The visarjan trolley was attached to a tree using a nylon rope, and while children were playing on it, it fell on the girl. She was rushed to hospital by residents after the kids informed their parents. The girl was declared dead at the hospital.

Falsely implicated

Speaking with mid-day, Advocate Sunil Pandey, who appeared in the matter, stated, “The applicants were falsely implicated due to political rivalry and pressure. There were no eyewitnesses, and the girl died due to her own negligence, a fact known in the area. The father of the victim didn’t support the prosecution case. All accused belong to the fisher community, and there were office bearers. It can be inferred from the statement of eyewitnesses that signatures and statements were prepared in the police station, and the investigating officer didn’t visit the incident spot. The panchnama was prepared in the police station, and this was admitted.”

‘Not fishermen’s fault’

The deceased girl’s father, Shravan Kumar Vaishnav, told mid-day, “I lost my daughter in this incident. There was no fault of the fishermen who were arrested in this case. All were innocent. These accused also helped me after I lost everything in Mumbai. This mandal is regularly organising Ganapati functions, and they kept this trolley properly. All kids were also instructed not to play at this place. My daughter was playing near the trolley with her friends, and it fell on her. After this incident, I met a political leader in our area for financial help, but instead of helping, he informed the police to register a case and arrest all people.” The incident happened while the girl’s father was at his workplace, and someone informed him that his daughter Lalita was injured and admitted to the hospital.

Advocate Sunil Pandey, (right) Shravan Kumar Vaishnav, the deceased’s father
Advocate Sunil Pandey, (right) Shravan Kumar Vaishnav, the deceased’s father

During the investigation, the investigating officer recorded statements of witnesses, prepared spot-cum-seizure panchnama, and inquest panchnama, collected documents, including the cause of death certificate. On completion of the investigation, the charge sheet was filed against all five accused. However, considering all the facts, the high court acquitted all the accused of the offence punishable under Section 304(a) r/w 34 of the Indian Penal Code, vide Section 255(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. Each accused is required to furnish a PR Bond of Rs 10,000 under Section 437-A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. Section 304(a) of the Indian Penal Code states, “Causing death by negligence: whoever causes the death of any person by doing any rash or negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.” To construe the offence under the above provision, there should be a rash and negligent act on the part of the accused, with a nexus to the death of the victim.

However, during the investigation, the police found that the eyewitness Santosh also turned totally hostile. It has come in his evidence that on April 12, 2019, he was on a boat, and was not at the spot the day the trolley fell on the girl. During his cross-examination, no fruitful purpose sufficed. He stuck to his evidence that nothing happened in his presence. It has also come in his evidence that on that day, the police called the panch to the police station and obtained their signature on an already prepared panchnama and took their signatures. Also, the CCTV footage was blank and there was no video clip in the DVD when played in court.

Advocate Pandey said, “They also created a fake witness for evidence, stating that the man saw the incident. In reality, when the incident happened, nobody was present at the spot, and there were only 4-5 children. The plot was orchestrated by politicians, but their strategy failed, and the accused were named in the witness list, which came to the knowledge of the court. The court understood that it was a total frame-up,” he added.

April 12, 2019
Day of incident

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