How shoddy probe into firearm thefts wrecked lives

Suspect CAR constable got off scot-free while innocents were punished

How shoddy probe into firearm thefts wrecked lives

The involvement of City Armed Reserve (CAR) head constable Purushottam Rao (53) in thefts of two police firearms over the past decade has exposed the shoddy investigation into the sensitive cases and brought to the fore how innocents were punished.

Casual investigation of the two mysterious thefts had three inevitable consequences. First, Purushottam got off scot-free for over a decade; second, his innocent colleagues were punished; third, police gave up investigation and submitted closure reports before the courts, making light of the fact that only law-enforcement personnel are authorised to possess the stolen weapons — 9 mm automatic pistol and 9 mm carbine machinegun (sten gun).

The timeline of the shoddy investigation runs like this: Purushottam stole his colleague Dasharath Rao’s 9 mm automatic pistol while on duty in Raj Bhavan on September 5, 2006. The jurisdictional Vidhana Soudha police registered the case on September 7, 2006, and closed it as undetected in 2007.

The axe fell on Dasharath. A departmental enquiry was conducted against him and he was made to cough up Rs 20,654 as fine. His increment was withheld for a year and he faced demotion for three years.

Emboldened by police’s failure to catch him, Purushottam stole another weapon — 9 mm sten gun — from the CAR (headquarters) armoury on March 28, 2007. The theft was reported the same day to the jurisdictional Cottonpet police station, but investigators gave up too soon. The case was closed as undetected. Predictably, the axe fell on the 11-member CAR platoon that had been issued the weapon. The constables faced departmental enquiry and their increment was withheld.

Since there were no past complaints against Purushottam, he didn’t come under the scanner. “The investigators didn’t do much to trace the weapons. They completed the procedures, closed the cases and submitted reports to the courts. It is by sheer chance that Purushottam was caught,” a senior officer said. Put simply, there simply was no investigation.

Bengaluru Police Commissioner Praveen Sood, however, insists that investigation did take place. “Our men tried their best, but some thefts take time for detection. I don’t know about the past but there was no clue then about Purushottam’s involvement,” he told DH.

Conceding that innocent constables were punished on account of departmental procedures, he said steps would be taken to remedy the injustice. As for Purushottam’s motive behind stealing the guns, Sood said he appeared to be abnormal. “Usually stolen weapons are sold, but Rao didn’t do that. He kept them safe. We will take him to Nimhans for psychological evaluation,” he said.

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