Arguing on the quantum of punishment, at 12.05 pm, defence lawyer Shrikant Shivde was reading paragraph number 198 from the Alistair Perriera hit-and-run judgment when a long court bell stopped him.
Judge D W Deshpande just didn’t let his finger loose from the bell, as he attempted to silence the furore outside courtroom number 52. For over two hours, the
courtroom doors remained closed, with the court’s name board broken, as fans of Salman Khan kept pounding and asking for a glimpse of the actor. Even with barricades marking the Mumbai sessions court, an emotionally charged crowd managed to reach the fourth floor, with no screenings to stop them.
This showed the utter lack of police control, and brought to the fore the lack of ‘intelligence’ on the part of Mumbai Police in anticipating the law-and-order situation a ‘Salman Khan fan’ is capable of creating.
By late evening, senior officials at Special Branch, the intelligence wing of the Mumbai Police, confirmed that no ground intelligence was picked on the actor’s ‘superstardom’. “There were no inputs, no survey carried by the department for the day,” confirmed a senior officer.
Senior officers said there was ‘one briefing’ on the day’s plan. The situation of ‘possible crowd management’ was assessed at the start of the week, and plans were drawn up — except no contingency plans made for a ‘possible power failure’ minutes before the verdict, or the kinds of stake holder the actor may attract. While his fans travelled from as far as Indore and south India, there were a few who the actor had rubbed the wrong way such as the Tamil Sangam, who were upset with the actor’s political views on Sri Lanka. But even as their yellow banners caught the attention of electronic media, there was no police report on any such
possible visitors in the lanes outside the lower court.
At 10 am, the barricades were spotted at Library Marg, outside gates five , six and seven, indicating police presence, including two police vans.
“We were expecting close to 700 persons for the judgment on Wednesday. The turnout was close to that and the traffic department was kept in the loop,” said Krishna Prakash, additional commissioner of police (South region). Even as the fans kept gathering outside Galaxy Apartments, in Bandra, the minute the word spread of the verdict around 11.15 am, the fans moved towards the court. While the fans kept multiplying outside gate 5 and gate 6, some started trickling into the premises inside and even managed to reach the court room floor. At 11.55 am — even as the arguments were in progress, the noise from screaming fans stopped advocate Shivde at least thrice from arguing, pushing him to plead loudly, “Police may direct to stop them or arrest them.” The police swung into action, but the commotion continued. Prakash blames the “ruckus” inside the court was “unexpected” stating that, advocates, journalists, other litigants, and fans had gotten into a tussle. The drama continued through the hours, even as there was a power cut, minutes before the final verdict. “There was no electricity in the court. Things got loud and heated but were under control in the course of time,” Prakash justified, rubbishing the events and added, “There were minor mismanagement issues such as that in the court.”
By the time the verdict was pronounced and the High Court granted interim relief, police estimates now point that around 1,000 people reached the court. “Around 600 people entered from the main gate of the court and around 400 from the rear end,” said a senior police official. “Similar scenes of chaos and inefficient crowd management was seen outside the actor’s Bandra residence,” he added. JCP (Law and order) Deven Bharti though says there was no failure on part of the police, and that ample security measures were taken. “The exterior of the court was well covered as it is anyway a vital installation and is secured by our personnel as well as the State Reserve Police Force. On Wednesday, we deployed additional personnel at the court. The problem was the interior as the court building has a lot of courtrooms other than the one in which the trail was held, and there is no way to screen everyone who enters, giving rise to issues regarding access control,” he said. At 12.45 pm, even a “police human chain” outside the court room could not stop the swelling crowd. By 1.46 pm, when a convoy of police vehicles moved from gates six and seven moved to gate three, the entire crowd anticipating the actor being escorted in the vehicle lost it’s cool and followed the vehicles, creating another law and order situation. The police now say that they will prepare better for the actor’s bail hearing scheduled on May 8 in the Bombay High Court. “We will ensure that the crowd is managed more efficiently on May 8 and that adequate security is provided to Khan.”