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Pune: Nitin Modha discharged from criminal conspiracy case

Crime Branch claims convict Nitin Modha helped Yogesh Raut — a key accused in the Nayana Pujari gang rape and murder case — escape; the magistrate claimed there are no details and a thorough probe was not carried out in the criminal conspiracy case

Convict Nitin Modha, who the Crime Branch claimed was the mastermind behind the escape of Yogesh Raut, a key accused in the Nayana Pujari gangrape and murder case, has been discharged from the criminal conspiracy case (for helping Raut escape) by the court of judicial magistrate (first class) S R Nimse.

Yogesh Raut
Yogesh Raut, a key accused in the Nayana Pujari gangrape and murder case, had escaped and was rearrested. Crime Branch claims Modha helped him escape. File pic

The magistrate, in his order, has passed a stricture against the investigative officer who filed the chargesheet, claiming there are no details and a through investigation was not carried out.

Raut, the main suspect in the gangrape and murder of software engineer Nayana Pujari, had escaped from Sassoon General Hospital on September 17, 2011. Raut was rearrested 20 months after his escape, from Shirdi in May 2013. His brother, Manoj Raut, was arrested for helping him escape. Manoj’s friend, Sachin Padekar, was arrested for aiding Raut in preparing forged documents to conceal his identity.

Raut had been brought to the hospital from Yerawada Central Prison and he escaped after a police constable removed his handcuffs. He was on trial for Pujari’s murder and for the kidnapping and murder of vegetable vendor Vishaka Mandal at the time.

On December 7, 2012, a special court in Pune had sentenced Modha of Porbander, Gujarat, to life imprisonment and fined him R10 lakh in the kidnapping and murder of 22-year-old Sagar Sahani, son of a Pimpri businessman. Modha and Raut met at Yerawada Jail.

According to the police, after the re-arrest of Raut, he had said that Modha helped him run away and had even made arrangements for him to be sent to hospital. A case of criminal conspiracy was made against Modha.

Prosecution examined three witnesses in this case. Ashok Sawant, who was also a prisoner at the time of the incident, had said that Modha and Raut were discussing an escape plan. Sawant was given Rs 2,000 from a relative of Raut at Khadki court. He had handed over the amount to Raut. Modha had “managed” the medical officer of prison.

Modha’s lawyers Vidyadhar Koshe and Shreyas Hatarote had moved a discharge application. Hatarote pointed out to the court that while Sawant had deposed this information in court, there was no mention in the police statement that Sawant had got R2,000 from Raut’s relative who had met him at Khadki court.

The case

Nayana Pujari, employee of Synechron software firm located at Kharadi, was gang-raped and murdered in the Zarewadi forest area at Rajgurunagar in Khed on October 8, 2009. Yogesh Raut, Rajesh Chaudhary and Mahesh Thakur, all from Khed, and Vishwas Kadam of Satara were arrested in the case.

Court’s observation
Magistrate Nimse observed, “There is no evidence against Modha and heresay evidence by Sawant is not sufficient to prove fact of criminal conspiracy. The police, during investigation, have recorded three statements against Modha from witnesses, of which two have turned negative. Sawant’s testimony is not sufficient to result the case into conviction... No doubt it is serious that an accused in offences like murder and rape fled the custody of police. But the allegation against the present accused is a designed criminal conspiracy. Unfortunately there is no prima facie evidence to frame charges against Modha. Investigation regarding criminal conspiracy needs to be very detailed but in this present case, there are no details and a through investigation was not carried out... Considering the chargesheet filed by the investigating officer, the court is not left with any option other than discharging Modha.”

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