Sunday, July 3, 2016

MIRROR EXCLUSIVE: MEET THE MUMBAI POLICE OFFICER CBI SAYS IT CAN’T CATCH - By Nazia Sayed & Divyesh Singh, Mumbai Mirror , A TOI publication



By Nazia Sayed & Divyesh Singh, Mumbai Mirror | Jul 3, 2016, 02.28 AM IST
Mirror Exclusive: Meet the Mumbai police officer CBI says it can’t catch
Inspector Ramesh More at his housing society in Bhandup; (inset) getting into a car to leave home at 10.30 am as he does almost every day
Mirror followed Inspector Ramesh More, wanted in connection with the disappearance of a witness in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case, for two days. But the CBI has told court it just can't find him.

A Mumbai police officer, who is an accused in the disappearance of a witness in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case and has the CBI looking for him for over a month now, has been moving around freely in the city and even partied this week in the housing society where his family resides in Bhandup.

Inspector Ramesh More, who along with ACP Rajan Ghule (now retired) is wanted in connection with the disappearance of Indore resident Dilip Patidar in in November 2008, visits his family every day, but takes care to spend the night in another apartment in the same housing society. He also leaves home every day around 10.30 am, returns late in the night and drives a car that is not registered in his or any of his family members' name.

But can such rudimentary precautions keep an accused out of the reach of the country's premier investigating agency? The CBI on June 3 told the Indore bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, which is hearing a case filed by Patidar's family, that they have been unable to trace More or Ghule despite their best efforts.

But here was More (see pictures) in plain sight on June 30 and July 1as a Mumbai Mirror team followed him around the city. In these pictures, he can be seen sitting in his housing society - Bhandup's Usha Complex -- and chatting calmly on his phone. The second picture shows him leaving home as he has been doing every day at around 9.30 am. The car in this picture is a Hyundai i20, MH 03 AZ 695. More changes his car every few days.

Given the pattern he follows, he should be a sitting duck for the CBI. But somehow its officers haven't been able to get anywhere near More for over a month now.

Patidar was picked up by a Maharashtra ATS team from Indore's Shantivihar Colony on November 10, 2008, two months after two bombs went off in Malegaon, killing seven people. He was brought to the Kalachowkie police station, where More and Ghule, both with the ATS then, began interrogating him. Patidar owned a property where one of the key Malegaon blasts accused, Ramji Kalsangra, had spent some time. ATS believed Patidar's testimony would strengthen the case against Kalsangra, who is absconding.

November 17, 2008 was the last time Patidar's family heard from him. Over the phone, he told his wife that there was a threat to his life and that he was being tortured in police custody. More and Ghule have maintained that they released Patidar from Kalachowkie police's custody on November 21 so that he could return with some crucial documents, but he never did.

Fearing the worst, the Patidars on November 24 filed a habeas corpus (literal translation: 'produce the body') petition at the Indore High Court. Habeas corpus is a recourse in law whereby a person can report an unlawful detention or imprisonment before a court.

The HC set up a team to locate him, which submitted a report saying that Patidar had gone into hiding. The family then approached the court again and in October 2010, the HC directed the CBI to investigate Patidar's disappearance.

In its first report in June 2014, the CBI accused More and Ghule of kidnapping and murdering Patidar.

The court issued an arrest warrant against the two cops in May 2016. However, a CBI team from Indore failed to find either More or Ghule in Mumbai. The report filed by the agency before the HC on June 3 said its men had checked everywhere, including the two officers' residences. The court then reissued the arrest warrant.

What is happening with More is in a way reflection of what has been happening with the main Malegaon blasts case. The National Investigating agency, after the statement of key witnesses recorded before a magistrate went missing, went back to the same witnesses and recorded fresh statements exonerating the prime accused Pragya Thakur and Lt. Col. Purohit. Instead of taking ATS's case forward, which was supported by incriminating evidence against these accused, NIA re-examined the witnesses.

Sources said More has stationed watch-keepers outside the housing society to alert him if cops arrive looking for him. He also has deployed his informers' network within the police department to keep him out of the CBI's reach.

However, a Mumbai police officer, who did not wish to be identified, said that it is impossible that everybody except CBI knows about More's whereabouts. "If the agency wants to, it can arrest him tomorrow," he said.

The Maharashtra government has rejected all requests by the CBI to prosecute the two officers, but the court's recent stance suggests the agency may no longer need the state government's approval. The court observed that the act done by the accused was something that did not form a part of their duty.

While Ghule retired from police service on May 31, More is attached to the Nagpur police commissioner's office.

A case with too many twists and turns

The 2008 Malegaon blasts case has seen quite a few twists and turns. The ATS filed a charge sheet against all the accused in 2009 including Pragya Thakur and Lt. Col. Purohit.

The case, however, was transferred to the NIA in 2011. Over four years after taking over the case, the NIA filed a supplementary charge sheet in May this year exonerating the accused of MCOCA, discharging a few others, virtually exonerating Pragya Thakur and diluting the case against Purohit.

This was based mainly on further investigation of the same witnesses whose statements were recorded by the ATS. This was preceded by statements of those witnesses going missing from the Special MCOCA court.

The court, however, while rejecting Pragya's bail application on June 28 censured the NIA for not probing her and for recording the statements of witnesses again. The court observed there were reasonable grounds to believe that the charges against her were prima facie true.


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