The Bombay high court on Tuesday crucified the prosecution’s ham-fisted style of gleaning evidence against the assassins of MiD DAY’s special investigations editor J Dey.
The judge hauled the prosecution over the coals for not procuring vital call records that would have established the conspiratorial link between gangster Chhota Rajan and his Indian lieutenants accused respectively of orchestrating and executing the daylight assassination on June 11, 2011. The court was hearing the bail application of Deepak Sisodiya, who is accused of supplying bullets to Dey’s shooter.
When Justice RC Chavan was told that the records of any calls exchanged between the accused had been wiped away by the service provider after a year, as is the norm, he said, “You recorded the statement in March. The call records were of 2011. You had plenty of time. Shouldn’t this have occurred to the investigating officer? Is any action being taken against the officer?”
The judge said the point about gathering call records struck him immediately after he saw the documents for the very first time, and should have dawned on the police as well. He excoriated the shoddy probe further, saying, “This has perhaps been done to aid the accused. If so, then God save this country. You have prepared a ragtag chargesheet, for public consumption. They are happy. But after a few years, there are few convictions.”
Defence pumped up
Sisodiya is alleged to have provided the bullets used by shooter Satish Kalia to murder Dey. The lower court rejected his bail in February last year. According to Sisodiya’s lawyers, the only evidence against him is his own statement.
Appearing on his behalf, senior advocate Shirish Gupte said that in light of recent judgments, the understanding of a criminal conspiracy had changed, thereby entitling his client to bail. Speaking on Sisodiya’s behalf, he said, “You must specify knowledge of conspiracy, otherwise it is a risky charge. I had no knowledge what the cartridge supplied by me [Sisodiya] was going to be used for… Sisodiya had no concern with the victim.” Advocates Nitin Sejpal and Pooja Bhojne also represent Sisodiya.
Gupte added that Sisodiya’s role in the murder conspiracy was even smaller than that of journalist Jigna Vora, who was recently granted bail after being accused of providing Dey’s licence plate number and his address to Rajan. Additional Public Prosecutor AS Gadkari told the court that two of the accused, Rajan and Nepalese national Nayansingh Bisht, were still absconding.
The prosecution also referred to a phone number registered in the name of one of Kalia’s female relatives, through which he allegedly kept in touch with Sisodiya and Rajan. But police had not verified from other dialled numbers whether Kalia was indeed using the phone.
Until the kin’s statement was recorded in March 2012, the evidence linking Sisodiya, Rajan and Kalia was frail. Now, it hinged very much on her statement, leading the judge to even ask the prosecution how it would carry on in case the witness turned hostile. Incidentally, her statement was recorded after Sisodiya applied for a bail plea in the MCOCA court and before it was rejected. The bail hearings for Sisodiya, and Rajan’s ‘financier’ Paulson Joseph, will continue on Thursday.
J Dey murder accused
Rohit Thangappan (alias Satish Kalia)
Nilesh Shelge alias Babloo
On the run:
On June 11, 2011, MiD DAY’s special investigations editor Jyotirmoy Dey was shot dead near his residence in Powai by four bike-borne men in the broad light of the day, while the crime beat veteran was on his way home on his motorcycle. He sustained nine exit wounds. The high-profile murder had set off drawn-out protests to demand more safety for scribes, and a speedy CBI probe to nail Dey’s slaughterers. The furore led the Mumbai Crime Branch to claim over a fortnight later that they had cracked the case. In the course of time, 13 people were accused, of whom 11 were arrested and two subsequently managed to secure bail.