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21 years after crime, robber handed 5-year sentence

It has been over 21 years since Sanjeev Sadanand Pawar tried to rob a shopkeeper in LT Marg. Since then, he has lived a peaceful existence, barring his 1991 arrest for the attempted armed robbery and a nine-month stint in prison, after which he was let out on bail.

But on Tuesday, the Bombay High Court rejected his appeal against conviction and ordered him to surrender to the police in two months, and serve a five-year sentence.

On December 20, 1991 at 1.30 pm, Sumesh Jain, a shopkeeper, was approached by Pawar inside his shop, where he held Jain at knifepoint and demanded money.

Jain, however, overpowered and disarmed Pawar, dragging him out of the shop.

An accomplice, Mahesh Chavan, was standing outside, armed with a knife. When he heard Jain’s screams for help, he dropped the knife and fled. 10 minutes later, police arrived and arrested Pawar, charging him under Section 398 of the IPC.

Both knives were recovered from the spot, and the cops also picked up Chavan and another accomplice, Vishwanath Doke.

Jain later identified Chavan and Pawar as the robbers.

The Sessions Court acquitted both Chavan and Doke, but Pawar was convicted. Two independent witnesses had identified him, and an
assistant sub-inspector had arrested him from the scene of the crime.

During the trial, Chavan’s lawyers tried to suggest that he had entered the shop to escape an angry mob.

However, this defence backfired, as Justice RC Chavan of the High Court said, “There would be no reason for a shop-keeper to have a scuffle with a person who comes to save himself.”

Justice Chavan further observed, “The appellant had no previous criminal history and even after the incident, which took place about 21 years ago, the appellant has been leading a very peaceful life and is working as a driver, without any involvement in crime. [The appellant’s lawyer] submits that it would be too harsh to send the appellant to prison again for the offence, which he committed 21 years ago when he has apparently given up contact with crime. He submits that the appellant was in jail for about nine months and that sentence should in fact serve the ends of justice.”

He added, “It is unfortunate that though the appellant has indeed led a peaceful life after his one brush with crime, the appellant would have to go back to prison 21 years after the crime was committed… [but] the sentence does not call for any interference.”  

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