The enduring trial in the Lakhan Bhaiya fake encounter case is likely to lengthen further owing to the transfer of Special Judge VD Jadhavar, who has been hearing the case for several months, ordered by Bombay High Court yesterday. On Tuesday the special court reserved its judgment in the matter — in which dismissed encounter ace Pradeep Sharma is the key accused till March 30.
Hearings had been completed, and the judge had begun dictating the judgment. In June last year, the High Court had noted inordinate delays in the trial and ordered that it should be conducted on a daily basis for a swifter conclusion. Speaking to MiD DAY, Special Public Prosecutor Vidya Kasle said, “The transfer will undoubtedly cause serious inconvenience to us.”
Kasle had made closing arguments, which spanned over a month, while the defence for the 22 accused took about three weeks. A transfer at this stage of the trial would delay its culmination by at least three months. In this time, 21 of the 22 accused currently in jail will continue to languish there.
The new judge would have to familiarise himself with the case, whose paperwork currently fills two large cupboards. Oddly, Jadhavar is the only judge from the City Civil and Sessions Court, South Mumbai to be transferred. Jadhavar, who retires in November, has been moved to Latur. The case has already witnessed the transfer of Judges SM Bhumkar, A Subramaniam and JT Utpat prior to this.
Both prosecution and defence lawyers appeared before Judge Jadhavar and expressed their frustration about the transfer. They are likely to meet Principal Judge Swapna Joshi today to discuss the matter. An application to Bombay High Court seeking to stay the transfer is also likely. The judge told the lawyers present, “I cannot say much about the transfer. I have nothing to say.”
>> On November 11, 2006, Ramnarayan Gupta alias Lakhan Bhaiya, an alleged Chhota Rajan aide, was killed in an encounter at Versova’s nana-nani park. 22 persons, including 14 policemen, are facing trial in the case. At the time of his death, Gupta had 19 cases registered against him - 12 were of murder.
>> In February 2008, Bombay High Court ordered a magisterial inquiry into the encounter, following a petition by the deceased’s lawyer brother Ramprasad Gupta.
>> In August 2009, the magistrate submitted the report, which said he had been in fact murdered in cold blood. The High Court later formed a Special Investigation Team, which arrested Sharma and other police officers.
Judge MW Chandwani had heard the bulk of the Neeraj Grover murder case. His transfer order had similarly come towards the fag end of the trial, shortly before final arguments were to take place. However, the administrative side of the High Court then stayed the transfer until the trial was completed.
The Other Side
When contacted by MiD DAY, Registrar General SB Shukre of Bombay High Court said, “Judge Jadhavar was due for retirement. There is nothing adverse or unusual about the transfer; nothing to be read into it.” When asked to clarify whether the transfer would take effect before or after the Pradeep Sharma judgment was pronounced, Shukre added, “I don't know.”
What will have to be re-examined
2,880 pages of evidence
7,300 pages of accuseds’ statements
1,024 pages of exhibits
29 call detail records
Did you know?
The case has already witnessed the transfer of Judges SM Bhumkar, A Subramaniam and JT Utpat prior to this