Sentenced to one year in prison by a trial court in 2014 for allegedly assaulting a BEST bus conductor 25 years ago, a man got relief from a sessions court that set aside his sentence on Wednesday.
While sentencing Hatim Pardawala to one year in prison, the trial court had said it was sending out a “good message” to act as a deterrent since the allegations were that of assaulting a public servant.
However, Pardawala, who was 29 years old at the time of the alleged incident on February 23, 1994, stated in his defence that he was attacked by the conductor and two policemen who were riding the same bus in civvies.
Police had booked Pardawala under Sections 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty) and 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant) of the Indian Penal Code after the conductor lodged a complaint that Pardawala had assaulted him when he was alighting from the bus.
According to Pardawala, he was travelling in a BEST bus from Crawford Market to Bhendi Bazaar in South Mumbai. The conductor, Tanaji Jadhav, got into an argument with him over change money as the ticket cost Rs 1.75, but Pardawala gave him Rs 5.
He further stated that Jadhav and the two cops used derogatory words with respect to his religion at a time when the city had just witnessed communal riots. When he objected to it, they beat him up using belts.
Pardawala was arrested, but granted bail the same day and handed over to a relative who took him to JJ Hospital for treatment.
After the incident, he shifted to Nashik and remained unavailable for the trial till his rearrest in 2013, after which the trial court sentenced him to one year in prison in 2014, against which he filed a criminal appeal.
In the criminal appeal filed by Pardawala through advocate Mahavir R Jain before the sessions court, he said the prosecution had not examined any independent witnesses to prove their case despite the bus being crowded.
The prosecution examined four witnesses, including the conductor, one of the two policemen present in the bus, a medical officer, who had examined the conductor and discharged him on the same day, and the investigating officer in the case.
The driver of the bus or other passengers were not examined at all. He had also said the trial court that sentenced him to a year in prison did not take into account his medical examination, conducted by a doctor from JJ Hospital, who was also examined as a defence witness.