Updated: July 25, 2019 1:08:23 am
SIGNALLING THE end of an investigation that caused it severe embarrassment and in which two of its own were arrested on the eve of their retirement, the Mumbai Police last week filed charges against alleged drug supplier Shashikala ‘Baby’ Patankar, dismissed police constable Dharmaraj Kalokhe and three others.
However, four years after accusing Patankar and Kalokhe of possessing over 124 kg of mephedrone and four failed forensic tests later, the police has now charged them only for possessing 20 gram of charas, imported liquor and a forged voter identity card. It also dropped the names of five police officers accused in 2015 of aiding Patankar to evade capture, citing lack of evidence.
In its chargesheet filed at the Bombay City Civil and Sessions Court on July 17, the Mumbai Police Crime Branch has claimed that the 112 kg of a substance initially suspected to be mephedrone but later proved to be the food additive ajinomoto — seized from Kalokhe’s home in Satara’s Khandala district — and 12 kg found in Kalokhe’s cupboard at Marine Drive police station, were to be used to dilute the artificial drug before selling small quantities to customers.
“Patankar would make small packets of mephedrone for sale at her home in Worli. Ajinomoto is normally mixed in with mephedrone to increase the quantity of the drug and to dilute it,” said a senior officer.
After the arrests of Kalokhe, Patankar, her sons Girish and Satish, and another alleged drug peddler Gyan Samuel, the police case was based on proving that the contraband was mephedrone.
However, the state forensic science laboratories in Mumbai and Pune as well as central forensic science laboratories (CFSL) in Hyderabad and most recently Chandigarh, all ruled that the substance tested negative for mephedrone or any narcotic substance and positive for monosodium glutamate or ajinomoto.
The police had got the samples retested by the central forensic laboratories by approaching the Bombay High Court after the sessions court had rejected its pleas, leading to a lengthy delay in the filing the chargesheet. All along, the accused had maintained that requests for retesting were only tactics adopted by the police to delay the prosecution in the face of negligible evidence.
After the report of the Chandigarh CFSL dealt the prosecution its most recent blow, a special Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act court in Mumbai had ordered the Crime Branch in March to file a closure report within a month.
As per the NDPS Act, the Crime Branch has only retained charges of drug possession against the five accused in the chargesheet. A search of Kalokhe’s cupboard had revealed 20 gram of charas, which is a non-commercial quantity, bottles of imported liquor and a voter identity card bearing his photograph and the name of Patankar’s late husband Ramesh.
“The articles found in the cupboard clearly indicate that Kalokhe was assisting Patankar in the drug trade and had also forged a voter identity card to pose as her husband,” said a police officer.
After arresting Patankar, the Crime Branch had arrested five policemen claiming that they were in contact with her while she was on the run and were helping her evade capture. Of them, senior inspector Suhas Gokhale was then heading the Azad Maidan unit of the Mumbai Police’s Anti-Narcotics Cell (ANC), while inspector Gautam Gaikwad was last posted with the Igatpuri police station in Nashik (Rural). Sub-inspector Sudhakar Sarang, assistant sub-inspector Jyotiram Mane and head constable Yeshwant Parate had all previously worked in the ANC. Gokhale and Gaikwad were arrested a day before their retirement.
The policemen had filed a plea seeking to be discharged from the case in May after the latest negative forensic report. A final order on their pleas is expected to be issued by Judge M S Mungale on Friday. The chargesheet is also expected to be formally placed on record before Judge Mungale the same day.
“Even after a thorough investigation, no evidence was found that supported the role of the accused police officers in the crime. They were in contact with Patankar as she is an informant. So, we have removed their names from the chargehseet,” the Crime Branch has stated in the chargesheet.
With a special NDPS Court in Satara discharging Patankar in 2017 in connection with the seizure of 112 kg of ajinomoto from Kaloklhe’s home, the Mumbai Police now seeks to try her for allegedly supplying Kalokhe with the contraband found in his cupboard at Marine Drive police station.
“We have sufficient evidence to show that Patankar passed on the contraband to Kalokhe in March 2015 on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway,” said the official.
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