Hema Upadhyay and lawyer's murder: Chintan's bail rejected four times in four years
Sessions, high court and Supreme Court convinced by prosecution arguments and evidence produced before them
Though the actual murder suspect has not been apprehended, the main accused Chintan has found it impossible to secure bail. Every time he moves court, police use the extra-judicial confession of Vidyadhar's mother to oppose his plea.
After being refused bail by various courts four times since 2016, jailed celebrity painter Chintan Upadhyay's lawyer Bharat Manghani told mid-day they may once again approach the Supreme Court. His last plea in SC was rejected in February this year after the prosecution asked for nine months for a trial. Chintan and two others have been imprisoned in the double murder of his wife Hema and her lawyer Harish Bhambani whose bodies were found bound and gagged inside a suitcase on December 11, 2015.
"In February this year, we had approached the Supreme Court for bail for my client but the prosecution lawyer sought nine months to complete the trial. That period ended on November 14," Manghani told mid-day, saying he was preparing the documents before approaching SC.
"In the nine months, only five witnesses have been cross-examined, including the panchas, the complainant and some others. At Dindoshi sessions court, on December 10, 2019, we were supposed to be given a copy of the CD that the police claim is of CCTV footage in which the accused, excluding my client [Chintan], are seen," Manghani said.
Special public prosecutor Vaibhav Bagade said, "Five witnesses have been examined and all CCTV footage from the Directorate of Forensic Science Laboratory (DFSL) has been received. A copy of the CCTV footage will be given to all accused. Also, further recording of evidence will be done. Regular witnesses are being presented before the court."
Bagade added, "But the defence lawyer of the accused demanded CCTV footage of the crime as evidence before we forward it for cross examination of the witnesses. We have now got a copy of the CD."
Hema and Chintan Upadhyay before they got divorced
Neha Patil, lawyer for Pradeep and Shivkumar Rajbhar, the other accused, appeared before the Dindoshi court on Tuesday. "The CD was supposed to be given to us on December 10 but due to some internal manpower crisis, we will get it on December 13. The next hearing date is December 16. The cross examination of the witnesses cannot be initiated without us seeing the CCTV footage," Patil said.
A senior police officer, privy to the investigation before the case was transferred to the crime branch unit 7, told mid-day that the cross-examination of around 100 people from both sides – the accused and victims -- will be recorded in the case.
"The defence lawyers are delaying cross-examination unnecessarily to make strong grounds to file a fresh plea in SC for bail for all accused. But we have collected strong evidence to nail them," said the police officer who had been posted at Kandivli police station in 2015.
Enough proof, courts said
Chintan's bail application has been rejected four times in the past four years, first by the sessions court and twice by the Bombay High Court and once by the SC on various grounds, mostly based on circumstantial evidence and witness statements.
On March 2, 2016, while rejecting Chintan's first bail plea, the sessions court stated, "There is sufficient material to substantiate the charges against the applicant [Chintan]. The statements of witnesses so far indicate the involvement of the applicant in the crime. The offence alleged is serious... The accused may abscond due to fear of punishment if bail is granted."
In February, 2017, while rejecting Chintan's bail plea, the HC stated that there was more than sufficient material to show he nurtured a grudge against his former wife and had expressed it in his diary and had also said he wanted to eliminate her. While rejecting bail, the judge also relied on the extra judicial confession of Vidyadhar Rajbhar's mother, who said on the day of the incident her son called and told her that he had killed Hema and her lawyer on the instructions of Chintan. The judge noted that no mother would give such a statement to implicate her own son.
In December 2017, the HC again rejected his plea on similar grounds.
1,600-page charge sheet
The 1,600-page charge sheet filed in March 2016 by the Kandivli police and the 200-page supplementary charge sheet filed by the Crime Branch unit 7 in June 2017 has only circumstantial evidence and a handful of witness statements against Chintan.
In the charge sheet, the police presented 'concrete evidence' against the other two accused, which included their DNA samples. However, the evidence against Chintan is circumstantial and mostly based on the statement of the mother of absconding accused Vidyadhar Rajbhar's alias Gotu.
The 'alvida' movie song which was shared by Chintan on Facebook, a day prior to the murder, and the calls and messages exchanged with Vidyadhar a few days before the murder also became part of the charge sheet.
The statement includes that of the Ola and Uber driver who picked up Chintan from Parel and dropped him at Chembur and then back to Parel on December 8, 2015.
According to the charge sheet, Chintan met Vidyadhar in Chembur just days before the murder. Another important statement is of Joseph Alexander whose work involves the use of chloroform. He had said, "Vidyadhar called me saying he needed chloroform and said he had received a big order from an artist Chintan Upadhyay."
The charge sheet also has an extract from Chintan's diary which reads, "I have not done anything wrong to her since the day I separated but she is always ready to fight with me. She doesn't leave the house. I feel she just wants to destroy everything between us. Anyway, somehow I have to discipline myself and start finding a way. I hope I can do it. I hope I remove all negativity and make a happy environment."
Bharat Manghani , Chintan's lawyer
Another extract reads, "Today morning, a black cloud woke me up with a strange face… is it what we call devil? A case in court can make a person (an) animal, who is wild and just wants to kill. In most cases, [an] animal attacks keeping [it]self in position that it should not get hurt, but human is the only animal who can destroy [it]self to destroy [an]other. And the purpose is very clear."
Double murder's Timeline
Dec 11, 2015: Artist Hema Upadhyay and her lawyer Harish Bhambhani found murdered in Kandivli
Dec 12, 2015: Bodies found in nullah. Three accused Pradeep Rajbhar, Vijay Rajbhar and a minor held. Main accused Vidhyadhar Rajbhar on the run. Meanwhile, Crime Branch interrogates Hema's estranged husband, artist Chintan Upadhyay. Duo was engaged in divorce battle and the ownership of their Juhu flat. Crime Branch doesn't arrest Chintan due to lack of evidence
Dec 22, 2015: Kandivali police arrests Chintan for getting Hema and Harish killed by the Rajbhars
March 8, 2016: Pradeep gives confessional statement saying Chintan asked him and other accused to murder Hema and Harish
March 11, 2016: Kandivli police file first charge sheet
June 2016: Pradeep retracts statement
Oct 2016-February 2017: Various courts reject Chintan's bail applications
June 2017: Case transferred to Ghatkopar Crime Branch unit VII, which files supplementary charge sheet
July 28-November, 23 2017: Chintan files discharge application, which is rejected by court
Dec 5, 2017-Aug 6, 2018: Chintan's bail plea rejected
Nov 2018: Special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam quits case. He was absent for 28 of the 62 hearings
August 22, 2019: Trial begins at Dindoshi court
Dec 12, 2019: Pradeep tells court cops detained his parents and forced confession. Vidhyadhar continues to be on the run. Sources say it is highly probable that he fled to Nepal or Bangladesh
Prepared by Faizan Khan and Diwakar Sharma
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