The Centre has dismissed from service IPS officer Patidar, who is in jail in connection with the death of a trader from Bundelkhand. The victim’s kin have accused Patidar of plotting the trader’s ‘murder’, and are hopeful that the truth will come out during trial, writes Mudit Mathur
In an unprecedented move, the President of India has dismissed the services of 2014 batch officer of Indian Police Service, Manilal Patidar who is in jail in connection with the death of a Mahoba (Bundelkhand)-based trader. It is the first time when an IPS officer has been awarded punishment of dismissal from service in Uttar Pradesh. Patidar’s name has also been removed from the UP Police website.
The order of dismissal was issued on the recommendations of Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government in UP in view of a shocking video of a trader appearing in social media wherein he had accused Patidar of running an extortion racket by misusing his official position.
On September 5, 2020, Indrakant Tripathi, a businessman involved in the crusher business in the Bundelkhand district’s Mahoba, in a video addressed to chief minister Adityanath alleged that Patidar, then district police chief (Mahoba SP), had threatened to eliminate him after he refused to pay Rs 6 lakh per month as extortion money to the officer.
Two days later, Indrakant was found dead in his luxury car with a bullet wound in his neck. He succumbed to the injury a week later in the Regency Hospital Kanpur. Earlier, the trader, Indrakant Tripathi, had sent a written complaint to chief minister Yogi Adityanath and DGP claiming threat to his life in case he did not accede to Manilal Patidar’s demand for bribe.
The state government ordered registration of an FIR against SP Mahoba, Manilal Patidar on charges of attempt to murder (later converted to murder) and criminal conspiracy at Kabrai police station on the complaint of Indrakant’s brother, Ravikant Tripathi. SHO Kabrai Police Station, Devendra Shukla, constable Arun Yadav and two local traders were also accused of “conspiring” to murder Indrakant, while a probe was launched into Patidar’s assets through the vigilance department. While the others were arrested, Patidar continued to roam free.
Before absconding from the scene, Patidar had dismissed the allegations against him and said that Indrakant had issued the video as he was irked by the police action over his illegal gambling business and for his protection.
A twist in the case came on September 26, 2020 when the special investigation team (SIT), formed to probe the case, concluded that Indrakant may have shot himself with his own pistol from close range. From the investigation, it was clear that Indrakant was shot from the front and that the bullet was fired from close range inside the car, ADG Prayagraj Prem Prakash, a senior police officer, had then said. The bullet was found lodged in the seat of the car and the pistol was lying between Indrakant’s feet, police said.
ADG Prem Prakash had also said that the ballistic probe of the seven pistols recovered in the case – four of the accused persons, two of the businessman’s partners and one belonging to the businessman himself – showed that he was shot with his own licenced pistol.
The state government suspended Patidar on charges of corruption and extortion and was attached to DGP office but he overnight disappeared and was declared absconder. A manhunt was launched by police and teams were also sent to his hometown, Dungarpur in Rajasthan, during the course of the investigation. Later, the police declared a bounty of Rs 1 lakh on his head. The case has generated interest across Uttar Pradesh.
But the state police failed to trace him despite all efforts. Then, suddenly, in October last year, after evading arrest for two years, Patidar surrendered before a Lucknow court in a dramatic manner. Since then, he has been in jail. Several questions relating to the sensational case remain unanswered and with Patidar in custody, the family of the deceased businessman has finally got some hope of justice.
According to media reports, the SIT found Indrakant harboured a feeling of deep insecurity and was on the brink of a breakdown after a video went viral showing him gambling. A gambling case had been filed at a local police station in August that year and though it did not feature Indrakant, his name was added to the FIR later, said police.
In his complaint, however, Indrakant’s brother, Ravikant, alleged that after receiving death threats from the IPS officer, Indrakant had on September 8, 2020 announced that he would hold a press conference the next day to expose the officer with evidence. However, at around 2:30 pm on the same day, Indrakant was found shot in his car on the Kabrai-Banda Road, said Ravikant.
The charges of murder and conspiracy were reduced to abetment of suicide following the SIT probe. Remarkably, the SIT reached the conclusion that Indrakant may have shot himself even without interrogating the suspended IPS officer Patidar. He could not turn up for questioning as he was COVID-19 positive, his lawyer had informed the SIT, according to the police.
However, the brother of deceased, Ravikant refused to buy the findings of SIT and in an interaction with media, he said, “The investigating officer can convert the hatya (murder) into atmahatya (suicide) or durghatna (accident) what can I do about that? The court will decide what it was. Everything will become clear during the trial. I lodged a complaint under IPC section 307 (attempt to murder) and it was converted to section 302 (murder) after the death of my brother.”
Ravikant, who had on several occasions accused the police of protecting Patidar, said the suspended officer’s surrender after two years did ignite hopes of justice but he was still living in fear. Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav had raised the matter of the absconding Patidar during his 2022 Uttar Pradesh Assembly election campaign to accuse the Yogi Adityanath government of protecting tainted police officers.
Barring Patidar, all other accused were arrested and sent to jail. As the case was also registered on the charges of the Prevention of Corruption Act, the chargesheet was filed in a Lucknow court as the jurisdiction of Mahoba district falls under it. The chargesheet against Patidar was filed when he was on the run.
Many twists and turns came in the case including a filing of a habeas corpus writ petition seeking the production of Manilal Patidar. A division bench of Justices Manoj Misra and Syed Aftab Husain Rizvi on May 27, 2021 noted that an IPS officer having gone missing for many months was a “serious issue” and directed the Yogi Adityanath-led government to investigate if Patidar was “dead or alive” and what efforts were being made to apprehend him.
Arguing in the court, the Uttar Pradesh government said that since Patidar was trying to evade arrest, he got the habeas corpus petition filed to malign the administration with an “oblique purpose”.
The petition filed by an Advocate, Mukut Nath Verma, as his legal representative, revealed that as Patidarwas about to unravel some foul play in the state administration, it was possible that his life might be in danger. He was afraid Patidar had gone missing because the state respondents, who are high ranking officials in the state administration, might have him in unlawful custody, the petition alleged. It requested the court to initiate an investigation in the matter of Patidar’s whereabouts through the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The High Court however did not concede his prayers.