A 45-year-old man died after falling from the fifth floor of Mantralaya, the state government headquarters, on Thursday. Even as police found a note in the pocket of the man, identified as Harshal Raote, they are still examining whether he committed suicide or accidentally fell to his death in the central courtyard of Mantralaya.
The incident comes a fortnight after the death of 84-year-old farmer Dharma Patil, who consumed poison in the sixth floor of the Mantralaya building, and a day after a physically challenged man tried immolate himself near the seat of power.
Raote, a Chembur Gaothan resident and a convict on furlough, was arrested by Kalwa police in 2003 for allegedly killing his sister-in-law Suvarna Kadam. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder and theft.
Police officials found a note in his pocket in which he wrote that “he was mentally disturbed as nobody in the family would talk to him”. He had come to meet officials at the home department as he was apparently advised that the department would consider extending his leave.
Senior police inspector Vilas Gangawane from Marine Drive police station said, “Raote was convicted in a murder case. He had recently come out on a furlough. We are checking CCTV footage to ascertain whether he committed suicide or slipped from the fifth floor.” A senior government official said that the reason Raote had come to Mantralaya would also be probed.
B K Upadhyay, Additional DG prisons, said on Thursday, “Raote was a life convict in Paithan open prison in Aurangabad. He was on furlough from January 10 and today was the last day of his leave.”
The police claim he had come to Mantralaya to seek extension of his furlough. He fell from the fifth floor a little after 6 pm. A loud thud was heard, after which a crowd including government employees rushed to the corridors to find Raote lying motionless in the central courtyard. He was rushed to St George Hospital where he was declared dead.
“Raote was brought to a Paithan jail in 2014 as he served 10 years in other jails across Maharashtra. Because of his good conduct he was moved to an open prison and he would teach computers to other jail inmates. This was his third furlough,” said a jail official.
According to the home department, prior to his imprisonment, Raote lived with his wife Sarita. He flaunted his closeness to a bank official and promised a job to his sister-in-law Suvarna Kadam. He took Rs 85,000 from her. Later, he made false documents and couriered it to the sister-in-law. However, his sister-in-law found out it was all false.
Fearing the matter would be exposed, the home department stated, he killed Suvarna by stabbing her 44 times with a knife.
According to sources in the home department, “He served 12 years and six months’ punishment. In the matter of crime related to children and women the punishment is up to 26 years.”
He would have had to serve imprisonment for at least five more years before seeking release. He had earlier availed of leave from prison eight times.
Senior bureaucrats at Mantralaya said there was a need to control entry into Mantralaya. “You can install dispatch section of all departments at the entry gate. That way, only people with prior appointments can be allowed inside Mantralaya,” a senior bureaucrat said. “It will also restrict access of middlemen who frequent the seat of power,” another bureaucrat said.
Maharashtra Education Minister Vinod Tawde, who visited the spot after the incident, urged citizens not to take the desperate step of ending lives.