CCTV footage of incident yet to be handed over to police

The investigation into the alleged beating of a police officer inside the Maharashtra Assembly by a group of MLAs has come to a standstill, as the cops have not been given the CCTV footage of the incident, even after 12 days.

Senior police officers refused to speak to the media on the issue. “Investigations are on and it won’t be appropriate for us to say anything on this matter right now,” said a senior officer of the Mumbai crime branch which is investigating the case.

On March19, sub-inspector Sachin Suryavanshi was allegedly beaten up by the MLAs. The incident shocked the State and Speaker Dilip Walse-Patil apologised to the people, while Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan promised strong action against the guilty.

It all began on March 18, when Mr. Suryavanshi and MLA Kshitij Thakur had an altercation at the Bandra-Worli sea link, after the MLA’s car was caught for over speeding. Mr. Thakur had to pay the fine, but later alleged that Mr. Suryavanshi was extremely rude to him, in spite of knowing that he was an MLA. The cop was summoned to the Assembly by the deputy chairman of the legislative council. When he arrived, some MLAs allegedly caught him and bashed him up.

Mr. Suryavanshi registered an FIR against two MLAs, Ram Kadam of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and Kshitij Thakur of Bahujan Vikas Aghadi (BVA) whom he identified, and also against 14-15 other people whom he did not know.

According to the Mumbai Crime Branch, the others can be identified only after seeing the CCTV footage, which the Speaker has not yet handed over to the investigating team.

The charges slapped against the MLAs include section 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty), 353 (assault to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint), 504 (intentional insult), 506 B (criminal intimidation), 143 (unlawful assembly),149 (every member of the unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object), 34 (common intent) of Indian Penal Code (IPC).

On March 20, five MLAs were suspended for one year as a result of the incident. The two MLAs named surrendered to the police authorities and were later released on bail. Ironically, Home Minister R.R. Patil announced the suspension of Mr. Suryavanshi for being ‘rude and misbehaving’ with the MLAs on the same day.

The arrest of the MLAs caused resentment among the other legislators, who demanded action against the police officer who entered the Assembly campus without valid pass, to effect the arrest. The State government suspended Crime Branch officer P.V. Nigde last week.

On Friday, Mr. Patil made it clear that the CCTV footage of the incident was not clear. This has weakened the case for police authorities.

The legislature has also formed a high-power committee to investigate the assault on the police officer. Headed by one of the senior most members of the Assembly, Ganpatrao Deshmukh of the Peasants and Workers Party (PWP), the committee will begin its work on Monday and submit its report in two weeks. The special committee is expected to question all the people involved in the case and also the senior IPS officers. It will analyse the CCTV footage available with the State government, which has not yet been given to the police authorities.

“Our responsibility is to conduct a free and fair inquiry, without any prejudice. We will give our report to the government, which I assure will not be partial to anyone,” said Nawab Malik of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), who is also the member of the committee.

Asked whether the committee has been formed to nullify the police investigation, Mr. Malik said, “We will investigate the truth.”

The elected representatives of the Assembly have brought a ‘breach of privilege’ motion against Nikhil Wagle and Rajiv Khandekar, editors of the two Marathi news channels for using ‘unparliamentary’ language against the MLAs.