The controversy over the incident where a veteran of the Indian Navy was attacked by Shiv Sena goons in September this year had not yet died down that another similar incident has come to the fore from Maharashtra. A complaint has been filed by an ax-Army officer in Mumbai’s Wadala area, accusing an influential Shiv Sena corporator of threatening him with life and conspiring to commit aggravated assault on him. He has also alleged inaction by Mumbai police authorities.
The ex-army officer named Sujit Apte has filed a writ petition in the Bombay High Court after the Mumbai police refused to file an FIR against the Shiv Sena corporator Amey Ghole. The distraught ex-Army officer, speaking to OpIndia, reveals how he was compelled to knock the doors of the Bombay High court after Mumbai police remained nonchalant and unsympathetic towards the transgressions committed towards him by powerful and weighty politicians and their goons.
Sujit Apte mentions in his writ petition submitted in the Bombay HC that Mumbai police, pressurized by local politicians, have failed to take appropriate action in his case and he feels his and his family life is under threat. He has therefore sought the Bombay HC’s intervention in the case.
For the unversed, Amey Ghole is an influential Shiv Sena member and a close aid of Maharashtra CM’s son and the state Tourism and Environment minister Aaditya Thackeray. He also holds important posts like that of the treasurer of the Yuva Sena and the health committee chief of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
Divulging the details of the case, the former army officer Sujit Apte told OpIndia that the entire issue revolved around an illegal Sai Baba Mandir structure constructed on the footpath abutting his property.
As told by Apte, the problem started after the illegal construction was demolished by the Municipal authorities. The demolished temple was close to a slum area and was used for all sorts of illicit activities by the anti-social elements of the vicinity backed by the local powerful people who claimed to be leaders. They use to sit inside the illegal premises and freely consume alcohol and smoke drugs, without fearing any action from authorities.
It is pertinent to note here that complying with 2017 Bombay HC decision, which ordered that any illegal structure constructed on the footpath needed to be razed, the Sai Baba Mandir structure in Wadala was demolished once previously, but localities with the help of the municipal corporation had re-erected the temple.
Before the state went into lockdown to check the spread of coronavirus, BMC had once again issued a demolition notice to the temple trust. However, because of the lockdown, the demolition process was stalled. During the lockdown, the temple became a hub for all sorts of illicit activities. The locals from the nearby slum used to sit there and consume alcohol and smoke drugs, Apte informed. Owing to all this, Apte along with other local residents filed a PIL and based on it, the court-ordered BMC to immediately seal the temple premises until the lockdown was in place and once the lockdown was lifted BMC was instructed to immediately demolish the structure.
Since BMC did not comply with the court orders to seal the property, another resident filed a contempt petition against the civic body. The contempt plea was heard by the Chief Justice of Bombay HC who ordered BMC to immediately demolish the illegal structure and submit a report regarding the same to the court by December 15. Based on the HC order’s the Municipal corporation demolished the structure on December 11, 2020.
After the structure was demolished, the Shiv Sena corporator Amey Ghole came to Sujit Apte’s house on December 13, 2020. He was accompanied by another junior engineer, named Gulekar and other local goons. Holding Apte responsible for the demolition of the structure, the Shiv Sena goons threatened him with life. Ghole rebuked Apte by saying: “Aapke vajah see humara mandir toota hain, yeh mandir humare voters ka mandir tha. Woh usse kisi bhi kaam ke liye istamaal karen tum kaun hote ho kuch bolne wale”, roughly translated as “It is because of you that our temple has been demolished. That temple belonged to our voters. They could have used it to do whatever they wished to. Who are you to interfere”.
Ghole continued to threaten Apte by saying: “now my voters would sit on the footpath abutting your property and do charas and ganja or whatever they want”. Ghole ordered Apte to remove all the security installed on his property latest by December 16, as they would begin the re-erection of the Sai Baba Temple from that day. The Shiv Sena corporator further threatened Apte of dire consequences if he tried to impede the re-erection work.
‘Dekhe kaun rokta hain humme’, bragged the Shiv Sena corporator
Apte here wonders how on a Sunday, the Shiv Sena corporator managed to get BMC officials to accompany him. “Sunday ko kausa BMC offical kaam karta hain” (which BMC official works on a Sunday, wondered Apte.
After threatening the ex-Army officer, Shiv Sena leader purposely asked all his goons who had accompanied him to Apte’s house to sit there and drink, smoke or do whatever they wished to do. “Dekhe kaun rokta hain humme” (Let’s see who can stop us), cried out Amey Ghole.
Meanwhile, Sujit Apte’s councillor Dhrutiman Joshi told OpIndia that once the Shiv Sena goons left, the former Army officer approached the local police station with a complaint against the Shiv Sena corporator and his goons. He mentioned in the police complaint that Amey Ghole had threatened him with life. Sujit Apte also submitted CCTV footage as proof to validate his claims. However, his complaint went unheard.
Thereafter on the intervening night of December 17 and 18, one of the goons who had accompanied the Shiv Sena corporator to Apte’s house on December 13, trespassed Apte’s property. The masked goon was carrying an iron rod with him. He threatened Apte’s security guard and broke all the CCTV cameras in the complex. The goon was about to break into Apte’s house when police reached the spot and he fled.
Mumbai police refuses to file and FIR against the Shiv Sena corporator
Sujit Apte rushed to the Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Marg police station to lodge a complaint against Amey Ghole and his goons, but the officer in charge refused to file an FIR against Ghole. The officer told Apte that since he was not harmed physically, an FIR cannot be filed in the case. Instead, the officer registered an NC on the name of Apte’s security guard who was threatened by the goon.
For the unversed, an NC complaint is taken for non cognizable cases. In such cases the police officer may receive a complaint and register it, but cannot investigate without a magistrate’s order, or make arrests without a warrant. He cannot even file an FIR without judicial permission. Such offenses are generally small in magnitude, involving public nuisance, mischief, minor fraud etc.
Apte revealed that he kept going back to the PS and insisted on them registering an FIR against the Shiv Sena corporator who he said was the mastermind behind the entire transgression. Apte revealed that also he submitted CCTV footage as proof of how Ghole had led the entire conspiracy against him but police, under the pressure of local politicians failed to take any action against Ghole.
Persistent on getting Ghole to pay for his wrongdoings, Apte wrote to senior officials. Finally on December 20, 2020, police did register an FIR but not against Amey Ghole but some Jagdish Shinde, who was also granted bail minutes after the FIR was registered, revealed Dhrutiman Joshi to OpIndia.
Authorities discouraged the former army officer to raise voice against Amey Ghole
In the writ petition submitted to Bombay HC, the petitioner- Sujit Apte wrote that when he approached the joint municipal commissioner- Narendra Ramkrishna Barde to discuss the issue, the latter requested him not to indulge with Amey Ghole. The joint municipal commissioner made Apte hear audio call recording where Ghole was heard openly threatening Apte in the presence of the commissioner.
It is important to note here that in the writ petition Respondent No.8 refers to joint municipal commissioner- Narendra Ramkrishna Barde and Respondent No.5 is Amey Ghole, the Shiv Sena corporator.
Ghole is extremely influential and has a stronghold over local authorities in his jurisdiction as he was not only a local corporator of the ruling party in the Municipal but also a leading partner in the Maharashtra alliance government. This was probably why he did not fear the law and had no respect for the same, opined Apte.
In these circumstances, Sujit Apte was left with no option but to approach the Bombay High Court by way of a writ petition under Article 226 of the constitution of India through which the petitioner has urged the court to direct the police to register an FIR against the Shiv Sena corporator Amey Ghole, the junior engineer Ghulekar and Wagmare under IPC sections 120(B), 34, 425, 426, 441, 442, 445, 446, 447, 448, 450, 451, 452, 455, 456, 457, 458, 504, 506 and section 110 and 117 of Bombay Police Act.
Secondly, Apte requested that a district committee is constituted to hear the grievances of ex-servicemen and under whose supervision such cases can be investigated.
The Bombay HC is scheduled to hear the case on January 13, 2021.
Maha government harassing citizens for their opinions and social media criticism
This is only one of the many instances where Shiv Sena goons have misused their party’s power and position to ill-treat common citizens in the state. Earlier, it was reported how a Navy veteran was brutally attacked by Shiv Sena goons for a satirical WhatsApp forward mocking Uddhav Thackeray, Sharad Pawar and Sonia Gandhi. CCTV footage of the incident had surfaced where the veteran could be seen being attacked by a bunch of goons. In December 2019, Sena goons had assaulted and shaved the head of a Wadala resident for criticising Uddhav Thackeray.
Recently, the Shiv Sena-controlled BMC had ordered the demolition of Kangana Ranaut’s office in Mumbai after her recent spat with the government in the state. Social media users like Sameet Thakkar and Sunaina Holey have also been harassed by the Maharashtra government.