The Maharashtra State Police Complaints Authority (MSPCA) has pulled up the Palghar district police for a four-month-long delay in acting on a complaint by a man about his neighbour allegedly poisoning his well. The delayed action by the police made the investigation standstill.
The complainant, Janardhan Bariya of Bariwada village in Virar West, in August 2018, had noticed a foul smell emanating from well that supplies drinking water to the whole village.
Suspecting his neighbours Kalawati and Prashant Bari, who had been trying to build their drainage line near the well, may have poisoned it, Bariya had made a complaint at Arnala Sagari police station on August 3, 2018, but claimed that the police took no note of his allegations.
Bariya then sent a sample of water from the well to the District Public Health Laboratory, Thane. The Laboratory revealed on August 20 that the well water was “not fit for drinking.”
Faced with apathy from the local police, Bariya submitted a complaint with the MSPCA in September 2018 against Gaurav Singh, Superintendent of Police, Palghar District, Jaywant Bajbale, the then Deputy Superintendent of Police, Virar Divison, Inspector Sunil Mane and Head Constable H. M. Nikumbh of the Arnala Sagari police station.
It was only after the Authority took the matter seriously and issued a notice to the police, a case was registered at Arnala Sagari police station on December 3, 2018, against the Bari couple for a committing a negligent act, likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life and mischief under the Indian Penal Code.
The accused were subsequently arrested and granted bail on December 12. However, the probe hit a dead-end when the Forensic Science Laboratory, Mumbai, refused to accept a sample of the well water drawn by the police for testing, on the grounds that the sample should have been drawn immediately after the contamination was first noticed, instead of several months later.
As a result, when the police conferred with the Government Pleader, Thane for a legal opinion before filing a chargesheet, it was told that investigation was inconclusive. No chargesheet could be filed against the accused as a result.
In their order, MSPCA members P. K. Jain and Umakant Mitkar observed that “the delay of the investigation agency in launching and enquiry/investigation has done irreparable damage to such a serious matter where the potable water which was the source of drinking water for a number of families in the area, was contaminated and became unfit to drink.”
The MSPCA also held the police responsible for causing a delay in the investigation, which resulted in vital evidence being lost.
The MSPCA has now directed the police to take the investigation to its logical conclusion by recording statements of witnesses, and make a decision on filing a chargesheet on the basis of the report of the District Public Health Laboratory, Thane, and other evidence collected.
No strictures were passed against the police officials as Bariya did not seek any action to be taken against them.