Till recently, when suspects in the cases of chain snatching and burglaries were arrested, the jewellers who bought the booty from them were made witnesses in the cases. But learning a lesson from the recent experience of jewellers turning hostile, the police have started arresting them as accused in such cases.
In the last two months, at least five jewellers have been arrested after the stolen ornaments were recovered from them.
The stolen gold and silver articles are usually sold to jewellers in almost all cases of chain snatching and burglary. When the police arrest the suspects, this gold, which is by then melted into bars in most cases — is recovered from the jewellers. Until recently, when the Pune police busted gangs of chain snatchers and recovered gold from jewellers, the latter were asked to be witnesses in the case.
“In the recent past, there have been several cases where these witnesses turned hostile, because of which the suspects were acquitted. In many of these cases, the only witnesses were the jewellers as the victims of chain snatching or burglaries could rarely identify them. In many other cases, these witnesses never turned up in court. There have been at least 10 such cases,” said a senior officer with the crime branch.
He added: “Earlier, it was observed that the jewellers never confessed to having bought the stolen gold, fearing arrest. Every jeweller knows from whom they are buying. Hence, they were made witnesses. Most of these are jewellers with small businesses and from fringe areas of the city or outside.”
Another senior crime branch officer said: “After the acquittals in the recent cases, we have now started arresting the jewellers. In at least last five cases, we have arrested the jewellers who bought the stolen articles.”
Fattechand Ranka, president of Pune Jewelers Association, welcomed the move. “This will put a check on jewellers who have now become habitual of buying gold from criminals at lower rates. But the police must ensure that the real culprits are arrested and no one is wrongly arrested on false information given by the criminals,” he said.