13 policemen and eight others convicted last week in fake encounter case

A Sessions Court here on Friday awarded life imprisonment to 13 policemen and eight others, who were convicted in the 2006 cae relating to the fake encounter of Ram Narayan Gupta alias Lakhan Bhaiya, an alleged aide of underworld don Chhota Rajan.

Last Friday, Sessions Judge V.D. Jadhwar convicted three policemen — Senior Inspector Pradeep Suryavanshi, Tanaji Desai and Dilip Palande — for murder, while the others for aiding and abetting the encounter killing of Lakhan Bhaiya.

Encounter specialist Pradeep Sharma, who has more than 100 encounters to his name, was the only accused acquitted of all the charges in the case.

The prosecution had sought death penalty for all the policemen and two others. They had argued that the all of them had played an active role in the killing. The defence, however, argued that the capital punishment should be avoided since the conviction of the accused was based on circumstantial evidence.

“We will be approaching the higher court against the acquittal of Mr. Sharma and also demanding death penalty to the policemen,” said Ramprasad Gupta, Lakhan Bhaiya’s brother and lawyer.

A police team picked up Lakhan Bhaiya from Vashi in Navi Mumbai on November 11, 2006 on suspicion that he was a member of the Chhota Rajan gang. The police also picked up Anil Bheda, his associate along with him. Lakhan Bhaiya was killed on the same day in an encounter near Nana-Nani Park in Versova area of suburban Mumbai.

After Mr. Ramprasad Gupta approached different authorities in the case, the Bombay High Court ordered a magisterial inquiry into the death in 2008. The report, submitted to the High Court in August 2009, stated that Lakhan Bhaiya was killed in cold blood from point-blank range. Following the report, the court appointed a Special Investigation Team (SIT), which subsequently arrested 22 people, including Mr. Sharma and another Senior Police Inspector Pradeep Suryavanshi. All the accused were lodged in the Thane Central jail since 2010.

Around 100 witnesses were examined in the case, while eight turned hostile. Bheda, who was the only eye witness in the case, went missing from March 2011 and his decomposed body was later found in Manor area of Thane district. Bheda’s death hampered the prosecution’s case and it had to depend on the deposition made by his wife.