Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Daya Nayak story - Ketan Tirodkar, Cops and the Underworld

Even as I write this, I am aware that today, in all probability, suspended sub-inspector of the Mumbai police, Daya Nayak, will be arrested under a non-bailable warrant, as soon as his anticipatory bail is rejected by the sessions court; and he will be made to languish in jail, while the real criminal, Ketan Tirodkar roams outside scot-free.

So who is this Ketan Tirodkar that the media has been quoting unedited? Following are facts - real, verified, researched and as far as I could resist, devoid of my commentary.

Tirodkar is a small-time ex-journalist with a dubious past, who worked with the Afternoon Courier in 1997-98. The Courier was never anywhere near the big players; it was soon swallowed by the Midday, but Tirodkar had ceased to be a journalist long before that. 1998 saw him in Dubai, hobnobbing with the likes of Chhota Shakeel. How did he, a lowly ex-scribe staying in the far-flung suburb of Dombivli, gather the funds to get to and stay in Dubai? No one knows, no one’s questioned it and what’s more, no one cares anymore. All that matters is the fact that his quotes make juicy news. Even back then, Tirodkar’s big stories and bragging helped him to catch the attention of the big fish in Dubai – the dons; just like he has now caught the attention of our media. The boasts of being an eminent and influential journalist were responsible for his continued khatirdari by Shakeel. Around this time, Daya Nayak and the rest of the encounter specialists were wreaking havoc on the mafia scene in Mumbai. Every don’s hitmen, those who were the most important cogs of their system were getting killed. Was it possible that the dons would do nothing? They didn’t sit there twiddling their thumbs anyway. Suparis were given; the aim was to finish the encounter specialists. In reputation, spirit or body – they were to be destroyed.

Ketan Tirodkar received the supari in Daya Nayak’s name. He was to put all his influence to work in order to reach that end. And he had hefty funds to accomplish his aim. So, in 1999, he came back to Mumbai. Once here, he lost no time in befriending Daya Nayak through tales of knowing Shakeel on an intimate basis. Nayak in turn told his department head, Pradeep Sawant, who gave him the go-ahead to cultivate a relationship with Tirodkar, as a potential informer and underworld mole. The two started meeting up and slowly became friends, giving Tirodkar ample opportunity to find out how Nayak lived, who his friends were and other such information which would later turn vital in his destruction.

In 2001, Tirodkar made his first move by filing a case against Nayak in the Central Vigilance Committee [CVC] which led to an enquiry into the finances of the Radha Nayak High School which Daya Nayak had helped to build in his village Yennehole, Karnataka. As directed, Addl. CP Bhujangrao S. Mohite filed his report, giving a clean chit to Nayak. Mohite also mentioned that this was a conspiracy against Nayak to defame him. Nayak was found to have personally contributed Rs. 10,001 to the school fund, the rest of the money coming from hundreds of Udupi restaurants in Mumbai, small time canteens in Karnataka, the villagers and some of Nayak's friends from Bollywood. This was followed by two more independent enquiries; carried out by Addl CP Bishnoi and Addl CP Uddhav Kambale. Nayak came out clean again. M.N. Singh, CP at that time, accepted the reports. Now, of course, he says he was "not satisfied" with either report, although he said nothing of the sort earlier.

In Nov 2003, Tirodkar made a confession in front of Justice Bhangale in the MCOCA court with ACP Shankar Kamble present and filed a private complaint against Nayak, alleging him of being in a nexus with Chhota Shakeel, and receiving Rs. 2 crores from Shakeel to shunt out officers most hostile to the mafia. By invoking the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act [MCOCA] against Daya Nayak, he became the first private complainant under this Act. He named Fahim Machmach [a Shakeel aide currently believed to be in Dubai] and builder R.C. Agarwal in the complaint for abetting Nayak. He also accused Nayak of financing the film "Kagaar" which was largely based on Nayak’s life. Incidentally, the movie all though well made, hardly enjoyed any success. The complaint was promptly followed by raids on Nayak’s house and on the house of Ms. Mrinalini Patil, [the producer of the movie] on Justice Bhangale’s orders. Nothing was found in either of these raids. The presence of Tirodkar at these raids, as directed by the court, was additionally humiliating for Nayak. ACP Shankar Kamble was given unprecedented sweeping powers for conducting the enquiry against Nayak.

In Dec 2003, Daya Nayak moved the High court, challenging the authority of the MCOCA court in this case. Justice Marlapalle quashed the petition, upholding the MCOCA court’s authority to do whatever it had done; which was – entertaining a private complaint and ordering raids without the sanction of a competent authority. In this case, a competent authority would have been any IPS officer.

In December 2005, the decision to allow private complaints in the MCOCA court was debated by a Mumbai High Court bench comprising of Justice Dilip Bhosle, Justice Vijaya Tahilramani and senior Judge Palshikar. Justices Bhosle and Tahilramani upheld Judge Marlapalle's ruling, but Justice Palshikar opposed it, thus becoming a divided bench. Last month, January 2006, the Supreme Court of India stayed the majority judgment and upheld Honorable Justice Palshikar's judgment. Private complaints can no longer be tried by the MCOCA by the ruling of the Supreme Court.

In the months that came, CP A.N. Roy cleared Daya Nayak from any involvement with the underworld on the basis of ACP Dilip Sawant's report. However, this report found Tirodkar, Fahim Machmach and R.C. Agarwal guilty. On the basis of the report, Tirodkar was arrested in July 2004. A mere 2 weeks later, he applied for bail in the MCOCA court in front of Justice Bhangale. The bail was granted. Builder R.C. Agarwal was arrested in August 2004 and was also granted bail by the same court.

A word here about the MCOCA seems appropriate. Widely recognized as a draconian law, even more so than the infamous TADA; many called for the law to be scrapped within a year of its inception in 2001, including the Human Rights Commission and the media. As per the MCOCA, granting bail to a criminal accused under it is virtually declaring the criminal’s innocence. Special public prosecutor Ujwal Nikam, who has handled several MCOCA cases once said, "No judge in his right mind will grant bail on such conditions since it will indirectly be acquittal before trial." The MCOCA court has earlier granted bail to BMC officer Narendra Rajbhar, who was allegedly involved in the Sara-Sahara shopping complexes controversy; the malls built by underworld kingpin Dawood Ibrahim on PWD land in south Mumbai. The same special court acquitted film financier Bharat Shah of charges of money laundering for Chhota Shakeel and Dawood Ibrahim in the infamous "Chori Chori Chupke Chupke" case of 2000-2002 under the MCOCA. The MCOCA court allowed Dawood’s brother, Iqbal Kaskar [he was extradited from Dubai and arrested after his arrival in Mumbai in 2003] to vote in the elections of 2004. Kaskar later tried to contest the elections from the Mohd. Ali Road constituency but this attempt was stopped by the state government.

The Government of Maharashtra filed an application in the Mumbai High Court for the cancellation of Tirodkar’s bail in October 2004. Tirodkar’s father came to the court and cried in front of the judge and went on to plead for his son, who was supposedly suffering from acute depression just then. The matter was adjourned, with the court going on vacation the next day. The application for bail cancellation has never come up for hearing since.

In October 2005, ACP Dilip Sawant [who took over from ACP Shankar Kamble, the one Tirodkar originally confessed to, after he retired] submitted another report to the ACB exonerating Daya Nayak of any links with the underworld, but suspected him of having assets more than his known sources of income.

The rest, as we say, is history. The ACB seized the opportunity to drag Nayak down. Tirodkar filed another complaint, demanding police protection. In front of the MCOCA court, he re-iterated his charges of Daya Nayak taking money from the underworld and possessing disproportionate assets. Vikas Gaikwad of the ACB, [rumoured to be a Shakeel man himself] heading the investigation against Nayak, gave interviews and spoke about Nayak owning a flat in Switzerland, a hotel with a swanky disco in Dubai, a fleet of luxury buses, multiple benami properties in Mumbai, Karanataka, Goa... Pradnya Sarwade, another ACB officer involved in the investigation has left no stone unturned in making up stories about Nayak. The credit of Mr. P. Manivellan being in jail for absolutely no reason goes to that woman. Manivellan, who is accused of money laundering for Nayak has been in custody since 20th January, for no purpose other than harassment. Sarwade even wanted to accuse Nayak and Manivellan of murdering Manivellan’s elder brother [who is alive and well, but is an NRI] in order to seize his company as a front for Nayak.

Without proof and without investigation, the media has been printing this garbage. The Mumbai Mirror took the first step; it broke the story and quoted Tirodkar word for word. Mr. Ghatge of the ACB was responsible for handing over the falsified story to the Mirror, alongwith the ACB's confidential documents. Since then, no journalist has looked back or stopped to think about how they are helping the underworld to triumph; and destroying a good man. All the newspapers have carried extensive stories – not one quotes Nayak anywhere. All of them have their sources, or they have Ketan Tirodkar’s words or they have the earlier material printed by them, which is of course the same crap all over again. One imbecile journalist, Smruti Koppikar by name, wrote in the Outlook about how Nayak comes in the same category as Sunil More, the cop who raped a minor at Marine Drive, both maligning the image of the police force. A psychologist Vinod Parekh, speaking at a seminar to boost the morale of the police said, "Not all of you are Daya Nayaks or Sunil Mores..." How dare they compare the two? What do they mean by this? I’ve said this before and I’ll say this again - this man, Daya Nayak, was a man who did his job really well. He was once rewarded for his ability. And now, for envy, jealousy, bribes, money or whatever reasons, he is being victimized. Pretty badly too.

Higher police officers are falling over themselves in a race to defame Daya Nayak. Each talk about how corrupt men like him tarnish the image of the police force, and how people like him need to be weeded out. DGP Pasrischa, A.N. Roy, Arup Patnaik, Julio Ribeiro, Javed Ahmed...the list is not endless, but it is too long. Are these officers incorruptably clean? What man on the street is going to believe that? Corruption does not necessarily mean the give and take of money, it can also be moral corruption, wherein you forget your basic values of morality and act against them...

What unites these men, usually at each others’ throats – the media, the police, the ACB? To me, the common thread seems to be money. Largesse scattered by Tirodkar...coming from Shakeel himself...or perhaps favors owed to the kingpins of the underworld...or perhaps plain malice...or perhaps just purebred sadism.

Whatever their reasons, they've achieved their aim; they have almost destroyed Daya Nayak. And most of the better police officers as well. I say almost, because drowning men clutch even at straws and I cannot yet believe that such terrible injustice can go unchecked...and though I may have lost my faith, I have not yet given up on hope.