Probe indicts 6 Mumbai cops for custody death cover-up

India on 21 July 2014
Location : Mumbai, India | Source : Times of India

Investigations into the death of a youth passed off as accidental by Sewri police five years ago have again revealed the sinister side of Mumbai cops. Prima facie, the probe found an elaborate cover-up for a custodial death case and is likely to charge at least six officers. 

After long delays at the Sewri police station, the latest probe report on the case has been submitted to top Mumbai police officials recently. 

The probe report says Mohammed Ali Sayyed, 23, was summoned to Sewri police station on an oral complaint by his uncle that he had stolen money. Sayyed died during torture in illegal custody. His body was dumped on the road and passed off as "road accident". Later, it was shown as unclaimed and cremated. 

On October 16, 2009, Sayyed's body was found near a peepal tree next to Kasara gate in Sewri around 6pm. The investigating officer, assistant inspector Prashant Mane, said in his report the victim was bleeding from his ears, nose and mouth and that it was a case of "road accident". The body was taken to KEM hospital for a post-mortem. On November 20, it was cremated as per rules since his identity had not been established and his relatives were not traceable, the report added. 

It found that Mane's report was full of lies, he recorded false statements of witnesses and forged signatures. It has established that Sayyed was thrashed by the detection staff and his body was dumped, but it's not clear who dumped the body and in whose vehicle. 

The "accidental death" case gathered dust for three years. Later, Sewri senior cops, peeved at the delay, transferred it to police inspector Ubale on March 7, 2012. 

Ubale's inquiry opened a can of worms. He found Sayyed was summoned on October 15. The detection staff thrashed him with a belt during interrogation following which he died. Mane's report was all lies. 

"Mane in the spot panchnama report number 2 lied that a witness Anita Remedeos had seen the body at the spot and her statement was recorded. She told Ubale she never gave any such statement and that she had gone to the police station on October 18, 2009, to lodge an NC against her tenants. It is suspected that Mane might have taken her name from the NC records," the final inquiry report said. 

In his report dated November 20, 2009, Mane showed Sayyed as unidentified. When Ubale contacted the hospital, he got papers with the deceased's full name, his parents' name and address. On April 11, 2012, ASI Ramesh Runpise of Sewri, in his statement to Ubale (which he later retracted), said two constables from the detection staff came to know that Sayyed had been brought for inquiry and a third constable beat him up with belt and he died. On April 13, another staffer said on the day of the incident, it was being discussed in the police station that Sayyed died due to constable Katte's torture. 

Ubale also recorded the statements of two persons, including one Wilson D'Mello, at Kasara gate who said there had been no accidents in that area in the last 10 years. He added some people had killed a drug addict during 2009 Diwali (October 2009) and dumped the body near Kasara gate. "It is clear that the man did not die in road accident," the final report said. 

The final report, submitted by senior inspector Ashok Bodhare of Yellow Gate police station, found several Sewri senior officers tried to block Ubale's inquiry. A detection staff constable even complained to the then police commissioner against Ubale and a senior officer supported the allegations. 

A senior police officer said: "We have got the report and will take strict action... We may transfer the probe to the crime branch." 

Times View 

This one case shows how deep the rot is in the police system. The probe reveals one crime after another - from the illegal detention to the elaborate cover-up - by a force that is entrusted with checking crime. Nothing will restore the young man to his family. The very least officials can do now is to punish the guilty; and the action has to be strong enough to act as a deterrent and send an unmistakably stern message to every cop. Or is even that hoping for too much?

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