Damned In The Name Of The Unholy Father

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CASE STUDY 10

Bhushan Satam, Cinematographer and don’s son

MY FATHER was in jail when I was born,” says Bhushan of Guru Satam, one of India’s most wanted mafia dons. “For years I saw him only on and off.” Bhushan says he last met his father in 1989. Then, the old man fled from India. Police say Guru Satam now moves between Hong Kong and Malaysia. Bhushan’s mother, who opposed her husband’s move from trade unionism to a life of crime, was left to raise the children on her own. In time, Bhushan learned photography and began earning a livelihood in the movies, assisting a cameraman.

“No one at work knew I was Guru Satam’s son,” Bhushan, 30, says. “I worked 18 hours a day.” On December 6, 2006, police arrested Bhushan on charges of attempting to extort money from a city builder, who allegedly received phone calls from Bhushan’s father from overseas. Eight others were arrested. “The police badgered me about my father’s illegal activities, saying I must know them,” he recalls. Bhushan told the police that his father called up the family once in a while, but that was about it.

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FACT FILE

Bhushan Satam is the son of one of India’s most wanted mafia dons, Guru Satam, who fled the country 20 years ago

Bhushan, who works as a cinematographer in Hindi films, claims that he has not seen his father since 1989

In 2006, Mumbai Police arrested Bhushan and claimed he was linked to his father’s extortion bid

Bhushan said he hadn’t confessed but spent 10 months in jail. He was acquitted last year

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All the nine accused were charged under MCOCA. Police offered confessions from Bhushan and a co-accused as evidence. Both told a magistrate they were forced to sign their confessions. As there was no other evidence to link Bhushan with the alleged crime, he should have got bail quickly. He did, but only after 10 months. Last September, Special MCOCA Judge MP Kukday threw out the case and acquitted all the accused.

The judge’s order is, in fact, a stunning exposé of a frighteningly inept prosecution. The police did not even bother to say how Bhushan was linked with the phone call that his father allegedly made to the builder. Shockingly, the builder could not even recognise the voice that the police purported belonged to Bhushan’s father. There was no evidence that Bhushan instructed the other accused for their various roles in the alleged crime.

To be charged under MCOCA, an accused must have had at least two chargesheets against him for offences of a similar nature in the preceding decade. To subvert this, those accused that don’t have such a background are often linked to those accused that have such chargesheets against them. Police then claim that all are members of the same “organised crime syndicate”.

IN BHUSHAN’S case, not one of the nine accused had ever been charged with a crime. But police said Guru Satam had plenty of chargesheets against him since the 1980s, and since these were his men, they should be tried under MCOCA.

Shoddy police work abounded. One police officer deposed that he arrested an accused and then went with him to his house to seize firearms. But an independent witness who police took along to the arrest said the accused opened the door, whereupon he was arrested. One witness turned out to be an electrician plying his trade — without a municipal license — from the pavement outside the office of the police unit investigating the case. The judge noted the man regularly fixed the wiring at the police office.

Police had claimed that one of the accused, named Raju, had called the builder to follow up on Guru Satam’s alleged calls. “There is no person by name Raju amongst any of the accused,” the judge said. The judge said the police failed to show how three of the accused were connected with the other accused or to the “calls of extortion”.

Police did not even bother to say how Bhushan was linked with the call his father had allegedly made to the builder

The police also flouted MCOCA when recording the confessions. “None of the officer[ s] appears to have assured the accused that he will not be sent back to the police custody if he denies [having made] a confession,” said the judge. Bhushan was sent back to the custody of the police officers who falsely claimed he had volunteered the confession. The judge said it appeared that the police offered the confessions because there was “no grain of evidence against these accused”. The builder, too, turned hostile and said he “could not” remember whether Guru Satam had phoned him, or if the call came from India or overseas.

Bhushan says he doesn’t know why he was implicated so many years after his father fled. He says he was lucky to get his job back. “Jail is jail,” he says, wincing. “Many of us used to actually weep, thinking we’ll never get out.”

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