26-year-old Aniket Kothale allegedly died in the custody of the Sangli Police leaving his bereaved mother, wife and three-year-old daughter behind.
Kothale was taken into custody for alleged robbery. His body was burnt beyond recognition and disposed of in Amboli Ghat.
The six people arrested for his custodial death included five police constables and one helper, who allegedly helped them dispose of the body after they put Kothale through severe torture, reports the Indian Express. They have been charged under IPC sections 302 (murder), 201(causing the disappearance of evidence or giving false information), 303 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 34 (common intention).
After the case came to the forefront, Aniket’s death wrecked the image of the entire state police. In an attempt at damage control, the Maharashtra government and police department offered ₹10 lakh as compensation to Aniket’s family, fast-tracked the investigation and even appointed a special public prosecutor to fight for the family.
However, among all these efforts, one woman’s attempt to help the family stands out. Sujata Patil, the deputy superintendent of police (DySP), posted in Hingoli district, has decided to seek guardianship of Aniket’s three-year-old daughter.
She wrote to Vishwas Nangre Patil, Inspector-general of police, Kolhapur Range, and asked for permission to take legal guardianship of Aniket’s daughter.
Patil requested and convinced Aniket’s family to accept Sujata’s appeal, even though he understands that it will be tough for the family to allow or trust another police officer to become a guardian to their daughter, after Aniket’s alleged custodial death.
Sujata is a mother of three children, two boys who are international football players, and one 18-year-old girl, Samartha. She cleared her MPSC exam in 1987 to become a police sub-inspector and served with the Mumbai police for over 29 years.
Speaking to the Times of India, she said, “Neither can I get a son for Kothale’s mother nor a husband for his young widow. But there is definitely something I can do for his small daughter, who does not even understand what has happened. We will take care of her education and all future needs. I will soon complete the legal process, and she will be my fourth child.”
Sujata’s husband, an RTO inspector, and daughter Samartha have extended their full support to her. Sujata has expressed she would be more than willing for Aniket’s daughter to live with them or stay with her own mother, as per the choice of the family.
Lauding her decision, Arvind Chawria, her senior at Hingoli and Superintendent of police, said, “She has made us proud. This will not only set an example before society but also go a long way in helping the police better its image.”