Plan to kill journalist: Mumbai court acquits three

The Mumbai Sessions court on Wednesday acquitted three accused who hatched a plan to kill a leading English daily’s journalist after he referred to the gangster as 'chindi chor' (small fry) in his news report.

Special court judge A L Pansare acquitted the accused Madanchand Govind Sonkar alias Raju Francis (28), Ashutosh Verma (23), Rambahadur Chavan (28) and discharged the fourth accused Abdul Shaikh (48), who turned approver in the case.

Chavan’s lawyer, Jagdish Shetty, said that the office of the journalist had seven gates; the prosecution could not explain why the accused were standing between gate number two and three gates. The accused had no information on reporter’s movement. The approver’s statement was not considered; it was exculpatory (Exculpatory evidence is evidence favorable to the defendant in a criminal trial that exonerates or tends to exonerate the defendant of guilt), as he had not shown his role in the crime. The approver did not provide court with the details of the role of the crime. Hence, his evidence was disbelieved. Prosecution examined around 30 witnesses.

The prosecution’s case was that three members of the Ravi Pujari gang were given a supari by the gangster to kill a journalist of a leading English daily because he referred the gangster as ‘chindi chor’ (small fry) in his news report. Cops stumbled upon Pujari’s plan while tapping his phone. They observed that, in the recent past, the gangster had made the maximum number of calls to a certain number in Nalasapora. Cops, after investigation, found that the number belonged to Sonkar.

After interrogating Sonkar, they learnt that Pujari had paid him Rs 1.25 lakh to distribute it to two other men, Verma, and Chavan, both residents of Nalasapora, to kill the journalist. The cops later picked up Verma and Chavan from Marine Drive on September 6. Police had recovered a country-made pistol, five cartridges and 11 SIM cards from the accused. They had also hired a four-wheeler to track the journalist’s movements. Cops also recovered the scribe’s photograph and a map of his Nariman Point office.

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