The sessions court on Friday convicted six people in matka king Suresh Bhagat’s murder case. His wife Jaya and son Hitesh -- who wanted to take over his multi-crore gambling business and other property -- are among the guilty.
The court held the six accused -- the others being Jaya’s lover Suhas Roge, Harish Mandvekar, Kiran Amle and Pravin Shetty -- guilty on the charges of murder (302), conspiracy (120) and common intention (34) of the Indian Penal Code. Two others accused earlier, Kiran Pujari and Sheikh Azimuddin, who turned approver in the case, were granted pardon. Eighty eyewitnesses were examined in the case.
The accused had moved the Bombay High Court 20 times and the Supreme Court four times for bail but their applications were rejected.
It was established that Jaya had given husband Bhagat’s supari (murder contract) to Roge. She gave him Rs 45 lakh to finish him off. All the accused were charged under the unforgiving MCOCA in April 2009, but the MCOCA court dropped charges under the stringent act after defence argued that the accused did not have a criminal history.
On June 13, 2008 Bhagat, accompanied by advocate Kamlesh Salunkhe, Tushar Shahaab, Milind Kadam, Valmiki Pawar and Dharmendra Sing, was travelling on the Alibaug-Pen road in his Scorpio car, when a truck collided with it. All six passengers died on the spot. They were returning from a court hearing in a narcotics case, which was later held to be false.
At first, cops saw the deaths as an open-and-shut case of highway mishap. The truck’s driver Pravin Shetty was arrested for rash driving. But Bhagat’s kin suspected foul play. Three weeks before the murder, Bhagat had filed a complaint stating his life was under threat from his wife and son who were eyeing his flourishing matka kingdom. Bhagat also came to know about the alleged affair of his wife and Roge, an Arun Gawli gang member. At the time, Jaya and Roge were handling the Kalyan Matka. After the home department’s intervention, the case was transferred from Alibaug Crime Branch to Mumbai Crime Branch. First, Jaya and some of the others accused were detained. On July 8, Hitesh was arrested from a Goa hotel, which he felt was the safest hideout, and around Rs 11 lakh was recovered from him, cops said. Roge and Mandvekar were arrested from Daman. Meanwhile, Bhagat’s kin are awaiting Monday, when the court will decide the quantum of punishment for the convicts. Bhagat’s brother Vinod said, “I am very happy with the judgment but I am waiting for the punishment that will be given to all the accused on Monday. It was very difficult to fight this case. I had lost all hope when all the witnesses turned hostile. I thank investigation officer Ramesh Mahale who guided the case to the end.” He added, “It was even more difficult to prove that his son and wife had murdered my brother.”
Investigating officer Ramesh Mahale, who has taken voluntary retirement, said, “I am satisfied with the judgment. It was a very well planned murder.” Talking about dealing with hostile witnesses, he said, “I know many eyewitnesses in the case had turned hostile but I had kept other witnesses with me and that helped. I never relied on one single person for the case. This case was built based mainly on the circumstantial evidences.” Mahale also claimed that in this case they had provided security to the court approvers and ensured their safety. A police officer said that it was known that Jaya and Roge wanted to kill Bhagat, but how his son Hitesh came to get involved was difficult to ascertain. The officer said Hitesh used to get the money for his daily spending from his mother Jaya, as Bhagat never entertained his demands. He was convinced that after his father’s death his property would be given to him.
Who was Suresh Bhagat?
Kalyan Bhagat, father of Mumbai-based owner of gambling dens Suresh Bhagat, was a native of Ratadia village, Ganesh Wala, Kutch, Gujarat. He came to Mumbai in 1941, where 13 years later Suresh was born. He and his two brothers and were also born and brought up in the city. Suresh was educated till Std IX. He got married to Jaya in 1979. In 1985 he got involved into his father’s business of Matka game. In 1992, after his father died, Jaya started showing her true colours, claimed brother Vinod. He added that many times, Suresh was falsely implicated in drugs and weapons cases by Jaya, all of which were later proved to be false in the court.
May 2008: Bhagat files a complaint alleging threat to his life. The threat was apparently from his wife and son, who were eyeing his flourishing matka business across the state
June 13, 2008: Bhagat, along with five others, identified as Kamlesh Salunkhe, Tushar Shahaab, Milind Kadam, Valmiki Pawar and Dharmendra Singh are killed on Alibaug-Pen road when a truck collides with his Scorpio. Police register a case of accident, but the word ‘conspiracy’ is bandied about
June 15, 2008: After foul play allegations, police file a case of murder and criminal conspiracy. Truck driver Pravin Shetty who rammed into Bhagat’s car and truck owner Shaikh Azimuddin are arrested
June 18, 2008: Harish Rama Manjrekar (30) and Suhas Roge, both Arun Gawli accomplices, are arrested on Maharashtra-Gujarat border. After receiving a Rs 45 lakh supari from Roge, Manjrekar commissions driver Pravin Shetty to finish off Bhagat
July 1, 2008: Raigad police arrest another accused Kiran Poojari
July 4, 2008: Jaya Bhagat aka Jayanti Chheda, 45, former wife of Bhagat, is arrested after she admits to giving Bhagat’s supari to Roge
July 8, 2008: Kingpin’s son Hitesh is arrested from a five-star hotel in Goa
July 9, 2008: Provisions of the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) are applied in the case
October 1, 2008: Prosecution files a 3,400-page chargesheet in MCOCA court against eight people, including Bhagat’s wife and son
April 24, 2009: Court drops MCOCA charges against the seven accused
August 10, 2011: Kiran Pujari, one of the seven accused, file application in sessions court to turn approver in the case
August 10, 2011: Asha Bhatt, sister of prime accused Jaya Chheda, gives money to a friend of Pujari’s, also an accused in the case, to withdraw his application for turning approver
August 12, 2011: Trial begins