Darling but short tempered, Devnarayan Patel had earned a reputation for his no-nonsense approach that often brought him at odds with those who fancy themselves as powerful in smaller towns: from small-time politicians to liquor shop owners to the media also.
It took the combined might of judiciary, advocates, politicians and partly the media, for the 38-year-old city superintendent of police (CSP) to turn his service revolver on himself after killing his wife on the intervening night of Monday and Tuesday. “His hands probably trembled when he aimed at his two children and hence he missed the targets,’’ said a senior police officer while trying to explain how Patel’s 11-year-old daughter Poonam and six-year-old son Aryan are still alive. In his suicide note, Patel said he loved them and wanted to take them with him.
By all accounts, Additional District Judge A Toppo was drunk when the two had an altercation near the SBI square late on Sunday evening leading to Patel’s suspension the next day. Shopkeepers in the area told The Indian Express that the judge barely managed to drive away after altercation with the police.
It was his humiliation, that began with having to appear before the district judge and his seniors, leading to his suspension and the threat given by the ADJ to book him in a case of The SC/ST( Prevention of Atrocities) Act, a non-bailable offence, that saw Patel take the extreme step. The police are yet to register a case in the suicide-murder case and are trying to figure if the judge could be booked under Section 306 of the IPC for abetment to suicide. While Toppo has been transferred to Bilaspur, the High Court has started a probe into his conduct.
An owner of a mobile shop filmed the altercation on a cell phone before the police seized it. It was returned the next day after deleting the video that could have come to Patel’s rescue. “Why should he have compromised when he did nothing wrong. I could see that the judge was drunk and was not able to start his vehicle,” said owner of Mukesh Thread Centre.
The judge reportedly hurled invectives and tried to throw his weight around when a home guard and a constable tried to reason with him to remove his car that had blocked traffic. The CSP, who was on a campaign to crack down on illegal liquor sale, was called leading to a scuffle. While trying to remove the car key, the CSP suffered abrasions.
Locals say the CSP, who also held the charge of traffic, had managed to streamline traffic and cracked down on joints serving liquor. While the drives earned him some following, he also made enemies, including local journalists. “He made a mistake of not booking the judge for drunken driving while the judge registered a case against the CSP the next morning,’’ a police officer said. A leading Hindi daily carried a report the next day saying the CSP had pulled the judge by his hair and tore his clothes. The judge allowed himself to be photographed wearing what looked like a torn shirt.
The story brought judges and advocates together and they demanded registration of an FIR against Patel and immediate suspension. Threats of strike and bandh forced the hand of senior authorities. “We lost a bold and dynamic officer,” said SP Ajay Yadav.