Suhas Gokhale said, ”Most importantly, the stigma of being accused in a narcotics offence has been finally removed after almost five years."
Over five months after four policemen, two of whom have retired, were cleared of charges of helping alleged drug supplier Shashikala Patankar evade arrest, Mumbai Police Commissioner Sanjay Barve last week erased the period they had served under suspension. It means the seniormost of them, senior police inspector Suhas Gokahle, has got his retirement benefits back.
”Most importantly, the stigma of being accused in a narcotics offence has been finally removed after almost five years,” said Gokhale.
Barve, who issued the order on January 21, wrote that the officers ? Gokhale, Sub Inspector Sudhakar Sarang, retired Assistant Sub Inspector Jyotiram Mane and Constable Yashwant Parte ? had been first cleared on March 6, 2019, when the Maharashtra Director General of Police set aside a proposal to conduct a departmental inquiry against them, citing a lack of incriminatory evidence.
The officers were arrested by the Mumbai Police Crime Branch on May 30, 2015 ? a day before Gokhale, Mane and another officer, Senior Inspector Gautam Gaikwad were to retire ? in a case which had embarrassed Mumbai Police after a serving constable named Dharmaraj Kalokhe was found in possession of 124 kg of a substance then believed to be the synthetic drug Mephedrone in March 2015. Patankar, who was accused of supplying the substance to Kalokhe, was arrested a month later.
However, the Mumbai Police’s case fell apart after forensic science laboratories in three different cities concluded that the substance seized from Kalokhe was not Mephedrone, but the food additive Monosodium Glutamate, popularly known an Ajinomoto. The negative forensic reports had forced the police to file a closure report before the Bombay City Civil and Sessions Court in August last year, in which the police accepted that it had not enough evidence to prosecute the arrested policemen. They were discharged by the court on August 3, 2019.
Following their discharge Parte and Sarang were reinstated on October 27, 2019 and November 6, 2019, respectively and posted at the Local Arms department. The four years that they served under suspension have been regularised and counted part of their regular service.
For Gokhale and Mane too, their two-day-long suspension between May 29 and May 31, 2015, prior to their retirement has been erased. This has special significance for Gokhale, who was to be promoted to the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) before retiring.
“As a retired ACP, I am now entitled to a higher pension. I will also be able to apply to teach at the Maharashtra Police Academy in Nashik and even work as a security consultant in the private sector if I want,” said Gokhale. While the police department had earlier released money held in Gokhale’s Provident Fund, he has had to wage a long battle to obtain his pension and gratuity. “I have repeatedly written to the Mumbai Police Commissioner asking for my money to be given to me for medical expenses,” said Gokhale, who now lives in Nashik.
Even so, he added, it has taken the police department very long to get to this point. “They have unnecessarily taken over four years to clear our names and then five months more to give us back our money. Only we know how we have survived this long,” he said. At the same time, Gokhale said, questions remain over why he and his fellow accused officers were not communicated of the DGP’s decision to virtually clear them in March last year.
Gokhale, whose entire left side is paralysed, has endured a difficult last few months as unseasonably heavy rainfall and chilly weather later largely confined him to his home.
In recent weeks, Gokhale, who has been openly critical of the Mumbai Police’s handling of the case, also discovered that his ACP promotion order had been published by the Maharashtra Home Department on May 26, 2019. However he claims to have been officially conveyed the order only on May 30, the day of his arrest.
Following Gokhale’s discharge, his son Saket filed a Right to Information application with the Maharashtra Home Department for a copy of the letter. “The government initially rejected his application. Only after he filed a first appeal when President’s Rule was briefly imposed in Maharashtra did the government provide him a copy of the order,” he said.