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Why was Dhariwal named witness?
Vijay Singh in Mumbai | March 19, 2005 02:07 IST
On March 11, the Supreme Court asked the country's premier investigating agency, the Central bureau of Investigation, on what basis a non-bialable warrant was issued against Manikchand gutka owner, Rasiklal Dhariwal Manikchand.
The court asked the question while hearing a petition from Dhariwal seeking cancellation of a non-bailable warrant issued by a special court. Dhariwal also gave an undertaking that he would appear before the CBI on April 4.
With no answers to the question, the agency merely mumbled it wouldn't arrest Manikchand.
But what exactly went wrong. How did the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act court issue a non-bailable warrant against Dhariwal when he was merely named as a witness?
The CBI, which recently took over the case, is not the only guilty party here. The answer to Supreme Court's question lies with the Mumbai police, which initially handled the case of Dhariwal's and Goa gutka owner J M Joshi's alleged nexus with the underworld.
The Mumbai police say they had prima facie evidence against Dhariwal and Joshi under section 3 (2) of MCOCA, which deals with rendering financial assistance to an accused.
But they didn't include their names in the charge sheet filled in the MCOCA court. "We didn't included Joshi and Dhariwal in the charge-sheet. Because, once their name was included, we would have been forced to make the evidence public. And they have enough clout to tamper with the evidence. So, their names weren't included in the first charge sheet. We wanted to bring them in by filing a supplementary charge sheet against them at a later stage. But there is no denying the fact that we had strong evidence against them. That's why the MCOCA court issued the warrant against them when we wanted to take them into custody, " said a senior police officer.
On the whole, the Mumbai police are unhappy that the case was transferred to the CBI when they had almost wrapped it.
Senior officials of Mumbai police maintain that Dhariwal's and Joshi's interrogation would have completed the investigation.
The police claim that while investigating the gutka barons' underworld links, they even got wind of a couple of celebrities' involvement with the underworld.
They say Jamruddin alias Jumbo, a close aide of Anis Ibrahim, who was arrested on September 27 revealed the names of as many as 55 people who had links with Anis Ibrahim. This included the names of two celebrities other than actor Nagma.
Of them, the police had questioned 11 people and did not call the celebrities, including a former cricket captain and a controversial Bollywood actor. This, they claim, was to avoid media attention.
"We questioned only those who were relevant for investigation, like politician and prominent travel-agency proprietor Arshad Siddiqui, who had arranged Jumbo's passport. We narrowed it down to the gutka-underworld nexus," said Assistant Commissioner of Police, and investigating officer of the case under MCOCA, Suresh Walishetty.
"Our investigation was very focused. We wanted to convict the gutka barons, and we even had enough evidence to do that, but case was transferred to the CBI. J M Joshi is now in India. Why is the CBI not arresting him?" asked a senior officer.
But even the Mumbai police have to take part of the blame.
For, they sat on the evidence for too long and squandered the chance to secure the two gutka barons swiftly. The two managed to flee the country before the police could summon them.
The Excuse? "It was a high profile case, so we had to be careful. We had to collect strong evidence against them before we could summon them. It took some time and they managed to escape," said Walishetty.
But a couple of questions still remain to be answered. If the Mumbai police had damning evidence against the two, how come the CBI was not informed? Or, if the CBI knew about the evidence, why did it not answer when the Supreme Court pulled it up?
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