THE ADDITIONAL director general of Maharashtra Police has informed the state government that the Sangli police did not register a case against Aniket Kothale, who allegedly died in police custody, on two occasions when there had been complaints against him. He has said Kothale might have been alive if the police had lodged the complaints. On November 6, Kothale was killed in custody allegedly by officers attached to the Sangli (City) police station. The Crime Investigation Department, which is probing the custodial death, has arrested five policemen and two private individuals (informers also known as ‘zero police’) in the case.
The ADGP’s probe has also revealed that Kothale was hung upside down using a cable that eventually snapped and he fell head first in a bucket full of water and died. The police, instead of rushing him to hospital, stashed his body in a police van. After Kothale’s body had remained in the police compound unattended for over one and a half hours, the team summoned the two ‘informers’ and asked them to take the body out of the police station. The two shifted the body to a private vehicle inside the police compound and drove it to the Amboli Ghat where it was set on fire.
ADGP (Law and Order) Bipin Bihari, who visited the spot after the murder came to light, has told the home department that Kothale’s employer had dragged him to the Sangli (City) police station on November 3, three days before his death, after a scuffle broke out between them over non-payment of salary. The employer, Nilesh Khatri, had complained to the police that Kothale assaulted him and “fractured his arm”. The police, however, “settled” the matter between the two and did not lodge a complaint. The second incident pertains to a robbery allegedly committed by Kothale and his friend Amol Bhandare.
According to the ADGP’s probe, a man identified as S Gaikwad visited the Sangli police station on November 4 claiming that two men had robbed him of his belongings. The police, instead of registering an FIR, only noted down Gaikwad’s number and told him they would contact him in case the accused were nabbed.
“Gaikwad was on a visit to Sangli and on November 4 night he was waiting at the State Transport (ST) bus stand for a bus to take him to his destination. Spotting Gaikwad alone, Kothale who was riding pillion on Bhandre’s bike ushered Gaikwad near the bike and on the pretext of dropping him to his destination asked him to sit between him and Bandare. After a while, Kothale started riding the bike and Gaikwad was now occupying the third seat. Sensing something amiss, Gaikwad jumped off and started running. However, the two managed to get hold of him and fled after robbing him of his money and phone. Gaikwad managed to reach the police station and gave a detailed description of the two accused. However, the police only noted down Gaikwad’s number and did not lodged a FIR,” the officer has disclosed.
The following morning, when constable Naseeruddin Mulla, one of the arrested policemen, visited a paan shop, its owner told him about the previous night’s robbery incident and said one of the ‘accused’ was sleeping on the pavement behind his shop. Mulla was aware of the case and took the accused, who identified himself as Kothale, to the police station. Mulla handed him over to sub-inspector Yuvraj Kamte. Kamte started interrogating Kothale and reportedly managed to “crack him” soon. Within hours, Bhandare was picked up and the police recovered Gaikwad’s phone and some petty cash. Gaikwad was then called by the police and handed over his belongings. This is when the police lodged a case and sought the duo’s custody to probe their involvement in some previous unsolved robbery cases.
“Had the police taken cognisance of the complaint given by Khatri and taken Kothale into custody to probe the claims, the incident of robbery wouldn’t have happened and there is a possibility that he wouldn’t had been killed in the custody,” said a senior official from the DGP’s office who did not wish to be named. “Burking (non-registering of a case) is a major issue and the Sangli custodial death is a fallout of this,” added the official.
When contacted, Bihari told The Indian Express, “After visiting the spot, I have apprised the Additional Chief Secretary, Home, (S K Shrivastava) of the case. The Sangli police had burked twice. I won’t be able to go into the details as the case is now being probed by the CID.”