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HC acquits Ravi Pujari gang member in an MCOCA extortion case

Giving benefit of doubt, Bombay High Court has acquitted an alleged Ravi Pujari gang member, convicted by an anti-terror court on charges of conspiring and threatening a well known city builder by opening fire at his staff.

Justices V L Achliya and V K Tahilramani set aside the judgement of a designated Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) Court which had sentenced Ranjan Kadri to 10 years rigorous imprisonment in 2009, for threatening to Ekta Developers.

"The evidence on record nowhere establishes the connection between the accused and gang leader Ravi Pujari on the basis of call data records and testimony of witnesses," the bench said recently, while hearing Kadri's appeal.

"It appears that the learned Special Judge misread the evidence on record, in recording his conclusion about the connection between appellant and gangster Ravi Pujari on the basis of alleged call data reports. Therefore, the finding of guilt of the accused on the basis of call data records are totally contrary to the evidence on record," the judges observed.

The court held that testimony of prosecution witness, Kiran Sahil was not reliable.

In his statement to the police, Sahil had said that he had given his cell phone number to the accused Ranjan Kadri to contact him. Later, when Kadri was arrested, a cell phone was recovered from his house which had the same number.

"A perusal of call data reports of this cell phone indicated that Ravi Pujari was in touch with this witness three times. Thus, the testimony of this witness was not credible and hence the accused was entitled to 'benefit of doubt,' the bench said.

A total of four accused were arrested in this case. Two of them, including Ranjan Kadri, were convicted and the rest were acquitted by the trial court.

The prosecution's case was that on December 21, 2007, two men armed with revolvers, barged into the premises of Ekta Developers in suburban Kandivali and fired at one of the staff members threatening, "Why have you not contacted Ravi Pujari so far. We shall not spare you for this lapse".

Investigations revealed that Pujari had called up the owner of Ekta Developers, Ashok Mohnani and issued an extortion threat.

The incident of firing was allegedly a sequel to the threat issued by the gang. 

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