A special Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) court on Friday sentenced gangster Arun Gawli and ten others to life imprisonment in a 2007 case relating to the murder of the former Shiv Sena corporator, Kamlakar Jamsandekar.

The prosecution had sought the death penalty for Gawli and two others. Gawli was an MLA at the time. Though he has a string of cases against him, this is his first conviction. Gawli was given life term on two counts, under sections 3 (1) (i) and 3 (2) of the MCOCA pertaining to organised crime, and ten years rigorous imprisonment for offences under section 3 (1) (ii) and 3 (4). In addition to incarceration, Gawli has to pay a total fine of Rs. 18 lakh. All the sentences are to run concurrently.

“You are members of an organised crime syndicate and the offence against you has been proved,” Judge Prithviraj Chavan said while pronouncing the sentence. “You also engaged in extortion against builders and a cable operator.” He noted that he was only awarding them life term, instead of the death penalty.

The court ordered that 40 per cent of the fine collected from the 11 accused should be paid to the wife of the deceased.

‘Shocking’

Gawli’s family was present in the court. His wife Asha Gawli was in tears after the verdict.

His daughter Geeta Gawli, who is a corporator, called the court’s verdict “shocking” and alleged political pressure behind her father’s conviction. “There is no justice. It’s a bad decision. MCOCA was applied despite the lack of proof. We will challenge the verdict in the High Court. Four Judges changed in the course of the trial. The murder and extortion cases have been mixed up,” Ms. Gawli said.

“This is also a big sentence,” she said when asked if the life term instead of the death penalty came as a relief. “Everybody [at Gawli’s bastion Dagdi chawl] is sad. He has always been asking for a Criminal Investigation Department probe to find the real killers. We supported the Sena in 2007 and this [Gawli’s arrest] happened in 2008. Why would he do this for money?”

She said Gawli was of the opinion that the law was not followed in this case. “He will come out clean,” she said.