A SARI, nine tiffin boxes, a tape recorder and a wristwatch: these are some items that were reported stolen in South Mumbai in the 1980s. At long last, earlier this month, the dusty files of these cases were closed by the court of the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (CMM) citing lack of evidence, and in many cases, the poor condition of papers.
The CMM’s order came following the Bombay High Court’s deadline to clear cases that have been pending for more than 30 years. The cases included the theft of a sari and fall material worth Rs 2,405 registered at Lokmanya Tilak Marg police station in 1980. Another case was that of a National Panasonic tape recorder-cum-radio and a wristwatch worth Rs 2,700.
The theft of a set of nine tiffin boxes, also registered at L T Marg police station, in 1980 was also closed by the CMM. In 1985, a complaint was registered of theft of a rarely found video cassette recorder worth Rs 12,000, registered with the Crime Branch. Other cases of illegal arms under the Arms Act were also disposed of by the court.
“Record shows that the accused is not traceable for long. Despite issuance of a non-bailable warrant, proclamation, prosecution has failed to secure presence of accused. Further, there is no sufficient evidence or material on record against the accused,” stated the court order in the case of the theft of tiffin boxes registered against an accused named Babu Savlaram Sahane.
“The present condition of papers is that, the chargesheet is in pieces, no panchnama filed on record and most of the statements are in torn condition, therefore, there is rare possibility to prepare any conclusion,” it further stated.
One of the grounds for disposal of these cases stated the condition of papers. The court also said the prosecution took up a lot of time to secure the presence of the accused.
An officer from L T Marg police station said despite warrrants sent to the accused’s name available in the old records, the accused might not have been traceable. “In many cases, the locality has changed altogether in 30 years. The papers are also not in a condition to provide any other clue,” the officer said.
Records on the exact nature of the cases is also unavailable. “The cases registered at L T Marg may have been thefts which occurred at Crawford Market and others, which come under its jurisdiction. Many do not choose to file complaints of theft of objects of lower value, but the accused may have been caught on the spot and hence a complaint may have been registered,” the officer said.
The court’s orders stated that the original articles should be returned to the complainant. Officials, however, said the objects might not be traceable now.