On Saturday, when they should have been lining up with other retiring police personnel for their farewell, senior inspector Suhas Gokhale and Inspector Gautam Gaikwad were in a courtroom five km away.
A judge, remanded Gokhale, Gaikwad and three other policemen in police custody till June 4. They had allegedly helped drug peddler Shashikala alias Baby Patankar evade arrest for more than a month, advising her to keep her cell phone switched off. She was subsequently arrested.
In its remand application to Metropolitan Magistrate R K Deshpande at Esplanade Court, the crime branch stated that the policemen, despite knowing that Patankar had hidden a large quantity of mephedrone, and that she was wanted by Satara police, Marine Drive police and the crime branch, did not arrest her, but helped her evade arrest.
The Mumbai police crime branch have charged Gokhale, Gaikwad, sub inspector Sudhakar Sarang, assistant sub inspector Jyotiram Mane and head constable Yeshwant Parate, with connivance, financing illicit traffic, harbouring offenders, abetment and criminal conspiracy under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act. The Maharashtra Police Act has also been invoked against them for dereliction of duty.
“Gokhale told Patankar to switch off her cell phone and run away and helped her escape from police. Crime branch wants to investigate his links with Patankar,” public prosecutor Kiran Bendbhar told the court.
In the remand application, it was alleged that a delay by Gokhale in providing Patankar’s phone number to senior police officers helped her evade arrest. Opposing the remand plea, his lawyer argued there was no evidence of his client’s involvement.
It was alleged that Patankar visited Gokhale after constable Dharmaraj Kalokhe’s arrest following a seizure of mephedrone.
A senior police officer alleged, “After Kalokhe’s arrest, Patankar visited Gokhale at his office in Azad Maidan. She told him there was an arrest warrant against her… Gokhale advised her to go into hiding.”
An officer said, “Around five years ago Patankar came into contact with four policemen. Despite her reservations towards peddling drugs and expressing a desire to quit, they forced her to do so as she was seen as safe bet and was well connected in the drug cartel business.”
“CDRs of the arrested accused show that they were in touch with Patankar for the last few years and used to visit her frequently,” alleged the officer.
“Patankar was in a relationship with Kalokhe and used to hand over the consignment to him. When Patankar got 120 kg of mephedrone from another arrested accused Manikan Samuel, the four arrested policemen eyed the consignment. They hatched a plan to tip off the Pune customs to get Kalokhe arrested,” added the source.
Gokhale’s lawyer Dilip Mishra told the court that the officer had not been named either by Patankar or Kalokhe during interrogation and had, in fact, helped the Marine Drive police on March 10 in identifying contents of Kalokhe’s cupboard as 12 kg of mephedrone.
Gaikwad’s lawyer L N Karde said, “There is no independent evidence against him, but only an allegation made by Patankar.”
Metropolitan Magistrate Deshpande noted: “Sufficient ground has been shown by investigating officer for believing the allegations are well-founded. Police remand is justified.”