The local lad from Dagdi Chawl who has worn many hats, including those of an underworld don and a neta, will now wear the prisoner’s cap for many years to come.
Gangster-turned-politician Arun Gawli was yesterday sentenced to life imprisonment by a special MCOCA court. Judge Prithviraj Chavan also sentenced 11 others for their roles in the conspiracy and murder of Shiv Sena corporator Kamlakar Jamsandekar. In addition, the convicts would also have to pay a substantial sum as fine, failing which they’ll remain behind bars for a few more years. 40 per cent of all fine amounts would be paid to Komal Jamsandekar, the victim’s widow.
Reacting to the sentence, Gawli’s corporator daughter Geeta said, “My father has been framed due to his rising political popularity. There is no evidence against him. We will definitely appeal the verdict. After I spoke to my father, he said everything has been done against the law. The judge in this court was posted here only two months ago.
Since the trial began, four different judges have been conducting the trial.”
Between life & death
Gawli, who has been in police custody since May 2008, was convicted for the murder on August 24. Special Public Prosecutor Raja Thakre had vehemently sought death penalty for Gawli and three others as “the crime was carried out in cold blood by an organised crime syndicate”. Gawli’s defence lawyer Sudeep Pasbola, however, had contended that his client was a family man and deserved a life sentence.
“It is easy to say I (Gawli) have 49 cases pending against me. But how many of those have seen me successfully convicted?” said Pasbola at the time of arguments for sentencing. The death sentence can be handed down by the court only if the case fits the litmus test of being among ‘the rarest of rare’, a standard laid down by Supreme Court. Thakre had argued that this was the first time the existence of an organised crime syndicate had been proved, and since the conviction was under the special MCOCA statute, the test did not apply. On the other hand, Pasbola insisted that the ‘rarest of rare’ standard was a well-entrenched principle and could not be ignored while contemplating whether a convict deserved life or death.
He had added that Rs 30 lakh, the ‘supari’ amount paid to Gawli to have Jamsandekar killed, was unusually ‘paltry’, as Gawli and his family were quite well off at the time the offence had been committed. “In fact, after the 2007 BMC elections, Shiv Sena was not in a majority, but four of our Akhil Bharatiya Sena members extended support,” Pasbola said on Gawli’s behalf. Residents of Dagdi Chawl had come out in large numbers in support of Gawli during arguments.
More than 72 shrapnel pieces were found in Jamsandekar’s head, as he had been shot behind the ear. The corporator was killed in broad daylight at Asalpha village, Saki Naka on March 2, 2007, in front of his niece, Malini, who later identified the murderers.
During Gawli’s arrest, additional commissioner of police Deven Bharti himself had gone to Dagdi Chawl to ensure the success of the operation. With Bharti were police inspector Dinesh Kadam, assistant police inspectors Dhananjay Daund, Ninad Sawant and Yogesh Sawant, police constables Shivaji Sawant, Sharad Shinde, Chandrakant Raut, Prakash Shivalkar and other staff of Crime Branch Unit III. The officers entered Dagdi Chawli and in no time entered Gawli’s house. Gawli tried to flee on the pretext of going to the loo, but the officers thwarted that attempt.
Around 200 policemen were deployed in the area that day. Cops had already picked up most of Gawli’s aides so they could not create any nuisance. SRPF platoons were also stationed at the spot and Bharti himself entered the house and caught hold of Gawli, who was hiding near a bed.
A life less ordinary
Gawli (58) was born and raised in Dagdi Chawl, Byculla. He dropped out of school in Std V and began working with his father, a milkman. He later became a mill worker but soon turned to crime, working for Rama Naik. After a fallout between Dawood Ibrahim and Rama Naik in which the latter was killed, Gawli and Ibrahim became enemies. Gawli's brother Bappa, was murdered by Ibrahim. Gawli was first arrested in 1986 for the murder of criminal Parasnath Pandey and Sashi Rasham, kingpin of the Cobra Gang. He was later booked under TADA and imprisoned for nine years. During his incarceration, his gang was held responsible for several killings, including Jamsandekar in 2007. In 1997, Gawli entered politics with the inception of Akhil Bharatiya Sena. In 2004, Gawli contested the assembly elections and was elected from Dagdi Chawl. 24 hours after filing his papers for the 2004 elections, Gawli was arrested for a 1992 extortion case. Cops alleged that Gawli’s henchmen had threatened a builder at Dagdi Chawl, and demanded Rs 5 lakh from him in 1992. Gawli’s arrest was seen as a political move.