Arguments for the bail of Paulson Joseph, an accused in the conspiracy to murder MiD DAY Editor (Special Investigations) J Dey, concluded before the High Court yesterday. Joseph had allegedly supplied money and international SIM cards to the shooters and coordinated between them and gangster Chhota Rajan.
Senior advocate Ashok Mundargi poked holes in the prosecution’s case, pointing out that his client was actually picked up on September 3, 2011, though his arrest was shown on September 5. The statements of Joseph’s wife and brother-in-law were recorded on September 3.
According to the prosecution, Rajan coordinated between different members of his gang on the ground. It was under his instructions that Joseph allegedly gave Rs 2 lakh to Satish Kalia, who shot Dey. He also gave him an international SIM card. But as per Joseph’s own confession, which he later retracted, Joseph had only given the money and SIM card to a man who identified himself as ‘Sameer’ and was dark-skinned and stout.
The two had met outside a mall in Vashi. The two men identified each other by their clothing information that Rajan had provided to them. They spoke to each other using false names. “The men all used false names to communicate with each other. There is no foundation to say that ‘Sameer’ and ‘Satish’ are the same man... and no evidence to substantiate that the mobile number they were getting calls from actually belongs to Chhota Rajan,” Mundargi argued.
The prosecution is also relying on the statement of a witness named Ravi Rattesar, who gave a statement to police saying that he had first bought a batch of international SIM cards and handed them to Joseph’s driver, Ashok Kunder. Rattesar had been picked up from the airport after a lookout notice was issued against him. But Rattesar was picked up on September 1, and Joseph was arrested only on September 5. Mundargi told the court, “The question is, how did they stumble on this witness? Without this witness, no SIM cards could otherwise be attributed to Joseph. The witness is separate, he is not part of the gang.”
Mundargi also raised a cloud of doubt on a second point relied on by the prosecution that journalist Jigna Vora, who is currently on bail, had relied on Joseph to gain access to Rajan: Vora’s ‘exclusive’ interview of Rajan appeared much before she is supposed to have first contacted Joseph. “There is no need to come to my client if she already knew Rajan,” said Mundargi. Mundargi continued that there is no ‘knowledge’ of the conspiracy attributed to Joseph, and he had no idea the SIM cards he was supplying were going to be used for a murder plot.
Appearing on behalf of the state, Additional Public Prosecutor AS Gadkari said that the scope for abetment was widened under MCOCA, and even communicating with an organised syndicate was enough to constitute an offence. The state has filed for cancelling Joseph’s bail in the Pakmodia street shootout case, and that matter is pending before the High Court. Joseph had allegedly supplied SIM cards to the shooters in that crime as well. On Thursday, Justice RC Chavan noted that the judgment in that case would have a bearing on the bail hearing in this one, and adjourned the matter.