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|December 30, 1998||
Cops blamed for Ramabai Nagar riots
The Justice S D Gundewar Commission has blamed the police for their inefficient handling of the situation following an insult to a statue of Dr B R Ambedkar in Ramabai Ambedkar Nagar in Ghatkopar in north-east Bombay last year.
The commission's report has held Sub-Inspector M Y Kadam of the State Reserve Police, who ordered his platoon to fire on a mob of rioting dalits, unfit to continue in public service.
The report, which was tabled in the legislative assembly today by Chief Minister Manohar Joshi, said the sub-inspector's lapses were so glaring and fatal that they could not be accepted.
"He has exposed himself in more than one ways and I do not think such an officer should continue in public service. In the same way, impromptitude, particularly of Head Constable G B Katalkar, cannot be overlooked," the Bombay high court judge who was asked to inquire into the incident observed.
Justice Gundewar said the evidence led to the inevitable inference that the police did not use any force before resorting to firing. "There was no provocation to firing," he held. The firing was not in self-defence and neither justified nor warranted. On the other hand it was indiscriminate.
He also rejected the 'tanker theory' of the police department and the state government. The police had claimed that they had had to open fire because the mob was trying to set alight an LPG tanker parked nearby.
Justice Gundewar further said the decision to open fire was exclusively Kadam's and not of his superior officers.
He said Kadam had failed to promptly lodge a report of the firing and made false pleas that the firing had taken place at two places. "The claim of firing near [a] luxury bus cannot be explained except by the existence of a guilty mind and effort to buy time for preparing a suitable case," the judge said.
He also found the ratio of total rounds fired to those that actually hit the targets alarming. The judge observed, "Injuries to most of the injured and even to some of the deceased were cases of missed targets." Also, the injuries to most of the dead or injured persons were above the waist.
The judge observed that the explanation given that the targets knelt down and so were hit above the waist could have been accepted if such cases were fewer in number. "But here, almost all were hurt above the waist, which means either the target was above the waist or indiscrimination was writ large."
Regarding the insult to the statue, the commission said there was no material on record on the basis of which responsibility for the act of garlanding it with footwear could be fixed on anyone.
Similarly, it held that the incident was too short to hold that the desecration was done to cause communal disturbance. The public reaction towards the incident was spontaneous, the judge said.
While tabling the report, Chief Minister Manohar Joshi said the government agreed with the observations and conclusions of the commission and assured the house that action would be taken on the suggestions made by it.
Regarding the issue of protecting statues of national leaders, raised by Justice Gundewar in his report, Joshi said the government is examining the feasibility of bringing forth a comprehensive law on the subject.
The commission has suggested that serious thought be given to nip the problem in the bud. Insults to statues of national leaders have often been found to be the deliberate act of anti-social elements and organisations wanting to create a law-and-order problem.
The government has also accepted the suggestion to entrust the investigation of such acts to an independent agency like the Central Bureau of Investigation.
The government's action-taken report says the criminal investigation department of the state police will henceforth investigate all cases in which police firing is resorted to or major violence leads to a law-and-order problem.
The commission also suggested that it should be made mandatory for the officer ordering the firing to immediately file a detailed report of the incident. Failure to do so should not only result in serious consequences for the officer but also result in certain adverse presumptions, it said.
The government also accepted the commission's recommendation that the work of recording messages in the control room needs to be made perfect since that is also one of the early records of any such incidents.
It was also suggested that SRP vans ought to be provided with necessary kits of tear-gas which can be used before resorting to firing.
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