Mumbai: Retired DCP Caught on Video Admitting to Covering Up 1990 Custodial Death

Bhimrao Sonawane – an inspector at the Worli police station at the time – now claims he was 'merely fibbing' about the incident.

New Delhi: Nearly three decades ago, retired DCP Bhimrao Sonawane – an inspector at the Worli police station at the time – allegedly beat up an inmate “like a dog” and subsequently covered up the custodial death.

In a video clip from October 2018, which was recently handed over to the Mumbai Police, the retired DCP can be seen bragging about the incident, Indian Express reported. The video was recorded in the office of Rajendra Thakkar, a businessman, who  is a relative of Sonawane and is currently in a dispute with him.

The alleged custodial death took place in 1990 under the jurisdiction of Worli police station, who have been handed the case.

Thakkar has meanwhile filed a writ petition before the Bombay high court seeking an FIR against Sonawane, who on his part is now claiming that he was merely fibbing and is being trapped.

The alleged cover up

In the video clip in question, Thakkar can be seen sitting with Sonawane and two others in his office. A man purported to be Sonawane narrates the incident from May 1, 1990, when Rattu Gosavi – the inmate who died – was arrested.

“Rattu Gosavi was from Worli… kicked him in the testicles… we wanted to catch him for quite a while…,” Sonawane can be heard saying about Gosavi who apparently had “27 cases against him.” Sonawane further says that whenever would arrest an accused, he “would beat him up like a dog… would fracture his bones before taking him to the police station.”

The ACP, Sonawane then says, informed him soon after that Gosavi had died. He described how the inmate’s body was “dragged.”

“… two held his hands… two legs… my ACP asked me to check his eyes… he was dead… he was alive just an hour back.. how did he die?” the Indian Express report states.

Also read: We Must Recognise That Discrimination Plays a Large Role in Custodial Torture

The police officials then attempted to get Gosavi admitted to a hospital in order to show he died there and “not in police custody or the responsibility will fall on us,” Sonawane claims in the video.

In order to inconspicuously transfer him to the hospital, Sonawane had a van parked outside the police station, trained two constables to hold the body “from both sides and move his legs in such a way that it should appear that he was walking to the van.” The body was also handcuffed and the crowd gathered outside the station was told that since Gosavi had injured himself, he was being taken to the hospital.

The officials first attempted to get him admitted to KEM hospital, but a doctor there refused to do so, saying “No, he’s dead. I won’t admit him in ICU,” Sonawane recalls. They then managed to get Gosavi admitted in JJ hospital.

His death was then made to appear as a result of suicide by jumping off from a building, the retired DCP can further be heard saying – and also explaining how he dressed up crime records.

The current probe

Thakkar, who on July 4 gave the CCTV footage to the Malad police, is locked in a dispute with Sonawane. According to Indian Express, Thakkar – who has four cases registered against him – had got an FIR lodged with Malad police against Sonawane’s daughter, who is married to Thakkar’s brother-in-law, alleging that they had cheated him of money.

Sonawane, however, claims: “Whatever I am seen saying in the video is just a story I was making up to give a certain impression. This is an attempt to trap me.” While he admitted that the name of the deceased and the incident tallied, he maintained that Gosavi “died while jumping off the first floor at his chawl and was declared brought dead before admission by the hospital. The version of events that I am seen narrating in the video is not true.”

Zonal deputy commissioner Abhinash Kumar told Indian Express that the video in itself isn’t sufficient proof. “We will also need corroborative evidence to match what the person is saying in the video. We are looking into the matter.”