September 28, 2002, was the beginning of the end for Ravindra Patil, a young Mumbai Police constable from Satara. He was training as a commando attached to the police protection branch and had been assigned as Salman Khan's bodyguard. He was with Salman when the actor's sports utility vehicle mowed down six people, killing one. Patil, who had told Salman to slow down the vehicle before he drove onto the footpath, was the prime witness in the case.
It was Patil who went to the Bandra police station to file the first information report. “I do not think the accident affected him,” said Kisan Shengal, who was then senior inspector at Bandra station. “He seemed quite okay then.”
Patil stood by his statement at the time of trial. His testimony was the most crucial piece of evidence against Salman and was the basis of the conviction. Shirish Inamdar, who was with the police intelligence wing then, said Patil performed his duty exactly as he should have. “The fact that he was a trained policeman made it easier for him to register a precise first information report within minutes. If the FIR and recordings in the station diary are precise, it becomes the strongest foundation in a case,” said Inamdar.
But, Patil disappeared during the trial and there were rumours about him being coerced to withdraw his statement. He started skipping court proceedings, reportedly because he had by then lost courage to stand by what he had said in court and felt isolated. Shengal, however, does not think Patil was isolated. “We have 50,000 constables,” he said. “If he ever had any trouble, he could have asked us for help.”
The delay in court proceedings and Patil's inability to appear in court five times led to a warrant against him. He was eventually arrested by the crime branch from Mahabaleshwar, jailed and dismissed from service. In 2006, however, he stood by his testimony in court and played a pivotal role in the prosecution's case against Salman.
And then, he disappeared. When he was found again, the former commando in training weighed just 30 kilos and was being treated at Sewri TB Hospital. The deadly strain of tuberculosis he had contracted took his life in 2007.