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Salman Hit & Run Case: Will Ravindra Patil get justice?

A young boy from Satara, Patil joined the Mumbai Police as a constable and was trained as a commando to join the Special Operations Squad (SOS) which has a primary duty of guarding VIPs. In, 2002, Patil was assigned duty as Salman’s bodyguard.

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Ravindra Patil
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In the wee hours of September 28, 2002, a drunk Salman Khan rammed his speeding special utility vehicle (SUV) on a pavement, mowing down one person and severely injuring six others. However, the incident also triggered loss of another life -- five years later. It was that of Salman’s bodyguard, constable Ravindra Patil, who was an eye-witness to the accident. Little must have the then 25-year-old Patil realised that the incident will reduce a well-built and handsome commando to a pile of bones weighing a mere 30kg in five years. Patil finally succumbed to tuberculosis on October 4, 2007 at a young age of 30.

A young boy from Satara, Patil joined the Mumbai Police as a constable and was trained as a commando to join the Special Operations Squad (SOS) which has a primary duty of guarding VIPs. In, 2002, Patil was assigned duty as Salman’s bodyguard.

On the fateful night, Patil was travelling in the SUV with Salman behind wheels. Immediately after the accident, Salman vanished from the spot, while Patil rushed to the Bandra police station – to fulfill his duties as a citizen as well as a policeman – for the first information report (FIR).

Patil gave his statement to the police based on which the FIR was registered. He later stood by his statement in the court at the time of trial. The prosecution on Wednesday claimed that Patil's statement has been the single-most important piece of evidence based on which the court finally convicted Salman after 13 long years.

On the night of the incident, Patil probably would not have realised what was in store for him. He could not have imagined that just by being in the car at the time of the accident and performing his duties would cost him so dearly – eventually his life.

The Bandra police finally managed to arrest Salman based on the statement given by Patil that the actor was driving the SUV at the time of the accident. Patil’s woes had just begun.

Being a ‘prime witness’ in a high-profile case, Patil was removed from his duties as an SOS commando. People close to him maintained that Patil was under increasing pressure to retract his statement given to the police. Even though it was never revealed who was pressurising him, it was clear that tremendous pressure was being put on Patil – he was physically and mentally crumbling.

Being a low-rung constable in the mighty Mumbai Police did not help Patil, because he was also tactfully isolated by his own department. He started abstaining from duty and would spend time away from Mumbai.

During the trial, it was clear to everyone, the only solid evidence that the police had, was Patil’s eye-witness account. There were a total of 27 witnesses in the case, but Patil was the prime witness who could turn the case around. However, when it was Patil’s turn to give his testimony in the court, he disappeared. Those close to him said that since he was isolated he did not have the courage to stand in the court. Many felt, that, it was the Mumbai Police which should have stood by him, ensured that being a prime witness and a policeman he should be protected. But, none of that happened and Patil continued to stay away from court.

In fact, when he disappeared, a missing complaint was also filed by his brother. Rumours started doing rounds that Patil was being pressurised to stay away from the trial.

Things took an ugly turn for Patil when the court did not appreciate the fact that he was staying away from the trial. His absence was delaying the already delayed trial. When the police were asked about Patil's whereabouts, the court was told that he had gone on leave without informing the department.

Based on this information, the court issued a warrant against Patil and ordered the police to arrest him. Mumbai Police dealt a double whammy to Patil by dismissing him from service on the charges of going on leave without permission.

When Patil was finally found in a hotel in Mahabaleshwar, his very own department promptly arrested him and he was sent to jail. Here again, Patil may have never imagined that he would be arrested in the very case in which he was a complainant and had himself registered an FIR.

Ironically, when Patil finally deposed in the case in March 2006, he was still in jail. One can only imagine what must have gone through a policeman who is a trained commando but ended up in a dingy cell of Arthur Road jail in a case in which he is a prime witness. “It was Patil's testimony which helped in convicting Salman Khan on all charges and sentencing him to undergo five years imprisonment,” said public prosecutor Pradeep Gharat.

After being released from jail, Patil again went missing. No one, including his family, knew where he was. There are reports that he had gone to his mother’s place in Dhule district. In the interim period, he was dismissed from the police department. This meant that his salary was stopped and he was left without any job. He even reportedly got divorced from his wife after being released from jail. Patil later even claimed that his family had abandoned him.

In September 2007, months after he had gone missing, Patil was found in the Sewri TB hospital. Such was his physical condition that at first no one recognised him nor did anyone know that he was the main witness in the Salman Khan hit-and-run case. He was reduced to a pile of bones and weighed a mere 30 kg. He was diagonised with a deadly type of TB with little hope of survival.

According to the hospital staff, Patil had reached the hospital in a pitiable condition and was unable to move or even speak. Patil had reportedly told the doctors that he was begging on the streets of Mumbai and had managed to collect Rs 50 to hire a cab to come to the hospital.

Doctors said that due to the enormous stress that Patil had undergone in five years, his body was unable to take pressure any further and he had developed a strain of TB which had turned fatal. He lost the battle for his life on October 4, 2007.

Barely a few days before his death, Patil reportedly told a section of the media that the accident had destroyed his life. 

On Wednesday, the Sessions Court delivered justice to the victims of the accident, but, the deceased Patil still awaits justice.

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