Those moments were full of suspense. Hushed whispers spread quickly across the corridors of the sessions court that an accused in the Shakti Mill gang rape case who had been brought to the court premises had probably given the cops the slip. Seemed like a deja vu of what terror accused Afzal Usmani had done last week.
The ‘news’ spread like wildfire. The police, jail officials and media went into a tizzy. And then after much hullabaloo, it turned out that the rape accused, Siraj Khan alias Sirju, had not been brought to the court premises, after all. Khan was safely lodged within the confines of Thane Central Prison.
It all began at 2.45pm when special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam was about to initiate proceedings and court officials asked all the accused to be brought inside the court. One by one, all the accused in the Shakti Mill gang rape case Kasim Sheikh alias Bangali, Vijay Jadhav alias Nanu and Salim Ansari were herded into the court. However, the fourth accused, Siraj Khan, did not show up. The court officials called out his name again. No response.
Principal judge Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi then asked Nikam of Khan’s whereabouts. After checking with crime branch officials, Nikam told the court that there was confusion and no one had an inkling where Khan was.
However, the three accused present in court were been in police custody as they have been accused in another rape case while Suraj had been sent to Thane prison.
Nikam told the court that the Thane jail authorities had sent written communication that Khan was “not in their custody” but was in the custody of the crime branch.
And this is what triggered all the confusion.
The media present in the court were quick to flash the news that Khan had gone mission. Some went a step ahead to say that he had probably fled.
Later, realising their ignorance of Khan’s presence in their custody, the Thane jail authorities confirmed that Khan was very much in their custody and was in the prison.
Additional director general (prisons) Meeran Borwankar told dna. “Sirju [Khan] is present in Thane jail and has not fled.”