With 21 convicts, including 13 policemen, handed life imprisonment by the Sessions Court yesterday, drama unfolded in the courtroom before the judge read out the sentence.
When proceedings began, former constable Tanaji Desai got into the witness box.
“ I just want to say a couple of things. I won’t cry. The morale of the police force will go down because of this, but it shouldn’t. Were it not for the efforts of men like [ Vijay] Salaskar and [ Pradeep] Sharma, Mumbai would not have been a safe place.
You should all stay policemen.
We did our jobs. We still have full faith in the law. In my 20 years, I caught lots of criminals. I was part of the team that busted the Ravi Pujari gang and Chhota Rajan’s wife. We have been sacrificed,” said Desai.
Sentenced to life
Judge V D Jadhavar then spent about half- an- hour reading out the sentence, handing out life sentences to all 21 men for kidnapping and murder. Several other lesser sentences were handed out for the other offences, such as destruction of evidence.
“ A set of period is to be allowed to accused numbers two to 22. The sentences are to run concurrently. Accused number 1 ( Sharma) be released forthwith if not required for any other case, upon executing PR bond,” Jadhavar said. The prosecution has six months to file an appeal.
Special PP Vidya Kasle urged the court to confiscate Sharma’s passport so that he could not leave the country.
“ I’m not saying he’s going to flee, but you never know,” she said.
Moments after the sentencing, a posse of women, led by convicted cop Sandeep Sardar’s wife marched into the courtroom and demanded to speak across the bar with Judge Jadhavar, which he, unusually, allowed.
“My husband is innocent. We live near DN Nagar police station, so the CDR shows my husband was there. We thought of you as a God. You knew everything and you still convicted him. If I die, only you are responsible. My Sardar is completely innocent. Please kill all of us, and I refuse to leave the court till you sentence us to life imprisonment as well. Our punishment is still left,” she said.
Anant Patade’s elderly mother chimed in, “ My son hasn’t done anything wrong.
Please leave my son. We will be on the streets without him,” she said repeatedly.
Pradeep Suryavanshi’s wife also said, “ You have acquitted the man who gave the orders, and convicted everyone else.”
Outside court, convicted cop Pradeep Suryavanshi’s brother retired Assistant Commissioner of Police (Matunga Division) Dilip Suryavanshi said, “All I can say is that no policeman will trust IPS officers from now on.
This whole case is fabricated.”