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Thief who posed as judge, gave many ‘bail’, dies

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NEW DELHI: It was the summer of 1969. And as the lyrics of the iconic Bryan Adams song go,

Dhani Ram Mittal

, a young and restless science graduate was just “killin’ time”. A station master by day, Mittal stole vehicles from court parking lots after his shift just for fun. This exposure to court perhaps gave Mittal the idea to get more near to the judiciary.

So, he became a judge, in the true sense of the word. Mittal forged a ‘

forced leave order

‘ of a judge in a court at Jhajjar and replaced him as the magistrate there.
But Mittal didn’t just ‘unwind’ like in the song. Mittal became a dedicated judge – sent a few to jail, released most of the undertrials on bail. His law degree helped him become a ‘learned’ judge who appeared clear that jail was an exception and bail was the norm in the criminal justice system.
But as the song went, the times were changing and Mittal seemed to know that he wouldn’t get far. So, even as the law started catching up, an undeterred Mittal switched professions and learnt new things in life. He became a clerk in Haryana’s transport department, where he helped people get forged licences.

Nothing lasts_ A thief who loved cars & courts, dies (1)

Mittal got bored soon and went to Kolkata to pursue a course in graphology. But nothing excited Mittal as cars and courts. He returned to Rohtak and started practising law again. In his free time, he pursued his other passion – cars. From the 1960s to the 2000s, Mittal was directly named in over 150 cases of car theft in Haryana, Chandigarh, Punjab and Rajasthan. Cops estimate that he committed over 1,000 crimes, among them car thefts, cheating, impersonation and forgery in his lifetime.

But all good things come to an end. For Mittal, the law wasn’t really the deterrent, age was. His crime files started declining after 2014-15. A car theft in west Delhi’s Punjabi Bagh was what did him in. In 2016, aged 77, he was arrested for stealing a car in Rani Bagh for his daily commute. This was his 95th arrest.
Mittal’s past haunted him in jails. But it was old age that worked in his favour. Every time he was put behind bars, he didn’t have to stay long. Last year, a Chandigarh case had him briefly incarcerated. After his release, Mittal, around 85 years old now, told his investigating officer that he had finally tired of jail stays. Within weeks, he suffered a paralytic stroke.
On Thursday, Mittal called it quits and passed away peacefully after what doctors said was a heart attack. “He had many health issues. He had been ill for a year,” said his son on Saturday after Mittal’s last rites were performed at Nigambodh Ghat.
The cops had to be sure. An ACP-ranked officer, who had investigated Mittal’s past, witnessed the cremation in person. On Saturday, he confirmed the death to TOI. “As soon as I learnt about his passing, I alerted the area SHO and also went to the crematorium,” the officer said. There are around two dozen cases still pending against Mittal. Death ensures the charges will finally be dropped.
His criminal history aside, Mittal was an avid storyteller, as even investigators testify. On Saturday, a cop recalled how they sat with him during the questioning sessions to learn about what were the “best days of his life, back in the summer of ’69”.

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