Ever since police officer Sunil Paraskar was booked for rape, the debate in Mumbai has gone beyond misdemeanours by policemen. Former police officers and women activists have questioned the way police have been handling the case, while the Shiv Sena has thrown its weight behind the officer.
Paraskar continues to serve as DIG (protection of civil rights) after being booked by Malwani police for rape and molestation on July 23. A model has alleged that he had sexually exploited her since November last year. The probe is now being headed by an assistant commissioner with the Mumbai crime branch’s cell for crimes against women.
On Monday, Susiben Shah, chairperson of the State Women’s Commission, wrote to commissioner of police Rakesh Maria, asking that Paraskar either step down or be suspended until the probe is complete.
The same concern has been raised by Julio Ribeiro, a retired Mumbai Police commissioner. “I am surprised that Paraskar is still serving,” said Ribeiro. “In the old days, no one would have dared do something like this. These days, everyone has some political backing or the other, which lets them get away with anything… Now, the suspension has to be referred to Mantralaya, and it is exactly these kinds of reforms that we have been fighting…”
On November 17, 2010, after the Powai police had registered a rape case against senior inspector Arun Borude of the LT Marg police following the rape of a minor, the officer was dismissed by then Maharashtra DGP D Sivanandan, who used his discretionary powers. This was after deputy CM Ajit Pawar had pulled up the commissioner of police for not taking immediate action against Borude.
In the current case, Maharashtra DGP Sanjeev Dayal said suspension is mandatory only if a police officer is arrested. “Paraskar has been on leave since July 24. If he does get arrested, he will be suspended,” he said.
Paraskar has filed an anticipatory bail application, which the crime branch has opposed. His counsel denied the allegations Tuesday.
“The other day, the Shiv Sena spoke out in Paraskar’s favour,” said Ribeiro. “Since when do political parties make these decisions?”
Last week, an editorial in Saamna, the Sena mouthpiece, questioned the model’s background. “After having amicable relations for so long, how did the rape happen suddenly?… The rape complaint was filed six months later. Does it take six months to realise a rape has taken place? Cases of charging men with molestation and rape in high-end societies to create a sensation… have almost become a fashion. After he has served for so many years, one model charges DIG Sunil Paraskar with rape and in one night he becomes a villain. Such accusations have become a good weapon to seek personal revenge,” the editorial read.
Ribeiro said that even if investigations should confirm that no forced sex took place, the fact would remain that Paraskar had used his official position to obtain sexual favours. “Would he have been able to obtain such favours had he not been a DIG?”
The model, 26, has alleged that she had met Paraskar in his official capacity, but that the officer later not only raped and molested her but also demanded many expensive gifts.
In her statement, the woman has said she met Paraskar around April 2013 when he was additional CP (north region). She had gone to Dindoshi police station to register a property case against her brother. She said the police refused to register an FIR, and she approached Paraskar who helped her expedite action, after which they exchanged numbers. “Paraskar congratulated me via SMS after an article about me appeared in a newspaper. He then began sending me SMSes on occasions and festivals,” she said.
In October 2013, when she filed a molestation complaint with Goregaon police against a neighbour, Paraskar allegedly sent her a message, saying: “You will not be able handle this case alone, you contact me.” She says she did not contact him.
Paraskar is alleged to have taken the model to a flat in Navi Mumbai, where he allegedly molested her twice while his staff waited outside in his car. “I got angry at this after which Paraskar apologised… After that Paraskar sent me several messages apologising,” she said.
A week later, she says, she met Paraskar because she wanted to buy a flat and he took her to a bungalow in suburban Malad. “Paraskar then consumed alcohol and started misbehaving with me saying that he loved me. He later… raped me,” her statement reads.
“In February 2014, my sister and I met Paraskar at his office, where he gifted me a new iPhone and took my old phone. After this meeting, Paraskar started pressurising me to give him a gift stating that he got the FIR registered with Goregaon police. I gifted him a Longines watch worth Rs 70,000. He also kept sending me messages asking me to meet him, and I met him at a hotel in Santacruz with my business manager. I gifted him a Mont Blanc wallet, pen and perfume worth around Rs 57,000. Paraskar had come with his wife. I wanted to tell her everything but he was always around,” the statement read.
Paraskar has refused to undergo a polygraph test, saying he has had a bypass surgery. “The police could still consult a medical expert, and if he says the test will not affect Paraskar’s health, the police could file the expert’s report in court,” said an IPS officer who wished not to be named.
On July 31, chief public prosecutor Kalpana Chavan told the trial court that Paraskar had not handed over his mobile phones to police. The complainant’s lawyer, Chitra Salunke, on the other hand, said her client had surrendered her phone through which she and Palaskar had exchanged 200 messages.
In a letter to the women’s cell of the crime branch, Paraskar has said he has changed the two phones being demanded, as one had its display screen broken and the other had a technical fault. His lawyer, Rizwan Merchant, told The Indian Express that because old phones may contain vital information, Paraskar had destroyed these long before the complaint was registered.