The team of police officers who arrested two teenagers for the kidnap and murder of a three-year-old girl in Nagpada won the Deepak Jog Memorial Award for crime detection at a ceremony on Thursday evening. Sub Inspector Dhiraj Bhalerao and Inspector Hemant Bavdhankar, who were both posted at Sir J J Marg police station when three-year-old Juneiza Khan went missing from her home in Nagpada in December 2016, were awarded the prize by Mumbai Police Commissioner Datta Padsalgikar, former city police commissioner Julio Ribeiro, Jog’s wife Swati and son Kaustubh.
After Juneiza went missing from her home on December 5, her father Mumtaz Khan, a scrap dealer, received a ransom call demanding Rs 1 crore. The kidnappers later asked for Rs 28 lakh but Khan still expressed his inability to pay the money.
Over two weeks after she went missing, the police tracked the SIM card used to make the ransom calls to the same building where the Khan family stays and arrested their 17-year-old neighbour, a first-year college student. The police claimed the juvenile assumed that the Khan family was very rich as several people in expensive cars came to meet them. The 17-year-old boy is alleged to have lured Juneiza into his home to play and knocked her unconscious using chloroform.
According to the police, the boy strangled Juneiza with the cord of a mobile phone charger after her mother pepped into his house to look for her and enlisted the help of his 16-year-old friend to help dump the body. The boys allegedly wrapped the body in a plastic sheet and used a rod to push it below the water tank on the terrace of a neighbouring building.
The boys, who were placed in custody of a remand home, later claimed they were physically assaulted by policeman while in police custody. The principal judge of the Bombay City Civil and Sessions Court had ordered a probe into their claims.
The Deepak Jog Memorial Award was instituted in 1997, a year after the death of the former Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime). A 1985-batch IPS officer, Jog had died in 1996 of a heart attack and was recognised widely for his investigation skills, hailed particularly for his role in probing the rape and trafficking of minor girls and women in Jalgaon in 1994 while he was Superintendent of Police there.
Padsalgikar, a close friend of Jog while he was a DCP in Mumbai in the early 90s, said the case selected for the award was worthy of the standards set by Jog. The award made a comeback this year after a gap of five years. It was last awarded to retired Assistant Commissioner of Police Prafulla Bhosale in 2012 for cracking the murder of J Dey, investigations editor of the Mid Day, allegedly by members of the gangster Chhota Rajan.