Friday 19 July 2013

Salman Khan hit-and-run-case: What happened to the key eyewitness?

Not many people remember that there was a key eyewitness in Salman Khan's 2002 hit-and-run case. The only person who knew all about the case was constable Ravindra Patil. He was the prime witness in this still pending criminal case. But he is no more. How did he die and what was the main reason behind his death? Here is his story:

People who know Patil agree to the fact that he was under extreme pressure to change his statement. Reports claim that many people urged Ravindra Patil to change his statement, so that Salman Khan could be spared from serving a jail term. Patil, however, did not change his statement till the last day. But as he refused to change his statement, he had to undergo enormous amount of trouble, torture and depression.

One fine day, Patil simply ran away. His brother lodged a missing report about him at a local police station. At many instances, Patil skipped court dates as he didn’t want to face the defence lawyer of one of the most powerful actors in the film industry -- Salman Khan. Soon, Patil found himself under scrutiny of the court as he remained absent at all court hearings of the hit-and-run case which held Salman as the main accused. The court proceedings were stuck because of Patil's mysterious absence from the witness-box. It also came to light that he had fled without applying for leave.

In what came as a shock to many, the man who had actually lodged the first information report against Salman Khan, later had an arrest warrant issued against him for not turning up at court hearings. It is being said that this is exactly what happens when a common man is an eyewitness in  a high-profile case.

Who exactly was Ravindra Patil?
Patil was a constable, belonging to the lowest rung in the police force. He was the only eyewitness who had complete details of what exactly happened when Salman Khan, reportedly tipsy, ran his car into five people, one of whom died and the rest were badly bruised. He claimed many times that he was under pressure.

During 2006, when the examination of witnesses began, Salman had Mumbai's best lawyers fighting for him. They were all set to deeply cross-examine Patil. But then, shockingly, Patil ran away one evening. His brother had lodged a missing report about Patil at a local police station.
Day after day, Patil chose to skip court dates because he didn’t want to face the defence lawyer. Soon, Patil came under scrutiny of the court because he remained absent at the court hearings. The court proceedings were stuck because Patil was absent in the witness-box. It also came to light that he had run away without applying for leave.
The constable, who was the first one to file an FIR against Salman Khan, in no time, found out that an arrest warrant has been issued against him after he failed to appear for five consecutive court dates in the 2002 hit-and-run case.

The judge ordered that Patil be arrested and produced in court, his seniors at the police force simultaneously approved that Patil be sacked from his job because he was absent from duty. They chose to ignore the fact that technically, Patil was ‘missing’ and not ‘absent’ according to their own records.
Nobody took note of this fact that he is indeed missing and not absent intentionally. The police could also not figure as to why the same person who was forthcoming in lodging a complaint against Salman Khan, suddenly got scared of the witness-box. Patil was never put under any witness protection programme, which is generally the norm for witnesses who are under pressure.

Patil was treated in the same way a hardened criminal is treated. Special police force was prepared to nab Patil and find out where he was apparently hiding. Finding him was very easy as he was not hiding anywhere. Ravindra Patil was actually staying in a small hotel in Mahabaleswar, just a few kilometres away from Mumbai. He would come to Mumbai often to meet his wife and family. He was not on the run from the police and was going around telling everybody that he wanted to stay away from the Salman Khan case.
He had repeatedly requested his colleagues in Mumbai Police to work out a way so that he can be spared from the case. The problem was: He was the prime witness and without him, the case didn’t stand a chance in a court of law.
He was just a simple man who hated going to the court. So what if he was a constable, he just didn't like how witnesses are grilled in criminal cases by defence lawyers? Especially in a case where he has to stand against Salman Khan.

Ravindra Patil was sent to jail for committing this crime. Police arrested him and produced at the court, the next day. The court sent him to Arthur Road jail, the  biggest jail of Mumbai where most of the high-profile criminals are lodged.
In Arthur Road jail, Ravindra was secluded in a separate cell where they keep armed dacoits and serial killers. He submitted multiple pleas that he doesn’t want to be grouped with criminals at that jail but nobody heard him.

He even filed applications requesting that he is a witness and not a criminal so he should be at Unit 9 of the Crime Branch but the court ignored his application.

Patil explained that he went absconding as he was mentally disturbed at the thought of being cross-examined by defence lawyers of Salman Khan. But nobody showed interest in his statements.

The constable's employers — the Mumbai Police — too didn't pay heed to his miserable condition. A missing Patil was converted into an absconding Patil in their files. He was sacked from his job.

He had tried a lot to convince his senior officers that he should not be sacked from his job. But nobody heard him.

During all this procedures, Salman Khan was unperturbed, dating a Bollywood actress and delivering hits after hits at the BO. Nobody questioned Salman, and neither did Salman, who is known to be the most helping and humble person in Bollywood, try to help Ravindra Patil.

Ravindra Patil's miserable stage - from a constable to a convict to a beggar!
After Patil was freed from jail, his family disowned him and the Mumbai Police was not ready to give back his job. Patil didn’t know what to do — he had to go all of this just because he saw the accident that involved Salman Khan and spoke about it fearlessly and honestly.

In a few days, Ravindra Patil went missing again. He was finally discovered at the Sewri Municipal hospital in 2007. Patil was begging on the streets of Mumbai before he landed up in the hospital. Extreme stress and alcohol had weakened him. He had contracted a drug-resistant tuberculosis which fast tracked him towards his death.

His family members were not aware where he was and nobody had come to see him for a year.

It is still unclear who was imposing pressure on Patil — some claim they were well-wishers of Salman Khanfrom the police force while others say that those talking to Patil were Salman’s common friends from Bollywood. Whoever they were, their tactics seemed to have worked as Patil, after showing signs of a serious nervous break-down, eventually died.

Above is one of his pictures before he breathed his last in the hospital. There was nobody besides him when he spent the last few moments of his life.

Many people who went through the case often put up questions like - is this what happens to a person who is just an eyewitness in a case that accuses Salman Khan?

Recently, Salman Khan  kickstarted a website (called to create transparency about his 2002 hit-and-run-case. Through this website, he wishes to clarify a lot of things before his fans as well as bring out the real truth regarding his case. The motive is to make everyone aware of the real facts and not the wrongly stated ones.
No mention of Ravindra Patil and his depressed state before his death has been seen on the site yet.

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