In a major embarrassment to the UT police, additional district and sessions judge Najar Singh on Monday acquitted all nine accused of robbery charge in the case of the Tanishq showroom break-in at Manimajra in January 2011. However, even as the police failed to prove that the arrested men were the robbers indeed, the recovery of stolen articles from them ensured they were sentenced to three years in jail on a lesser charge. As such, since they had already served about three years behind bars during trial, the court considered that they had already undergone that sentence so would be freed.
The heist had made headlines after a gang of men, five of them dressed in police uniform, broke into the showroom in the early hours of January 12, 2011, and took away jewellery said to be worth `12 crore. The case fell flat, though, after the main witness, security guard Swarn Singh, failed to identify the accused. The saving grace for the prosecution was the statement of the outlet owner Anil Goyal, who identified the recovered articles and aided the conviction on charge of having kept stolen material.
The guard said in his testimony that "all the accused were wearing monkey caps, thus I cannot identify them". In his statement before the court in August 2013, Goyal too had said he could not identify the accused as they were masks. Even the security camera footage could not help much as the robbers' faces were covered.
The police team that was honoured with promotions and cash awards after "cracking" the case had even failed to place on record the detailed break-up of jewellery recovered from each of the arrested accused.
The police had booked 12 persons, including a juvenile, within days of the robbery. The kingpin was alleged to be Paras Soni, who later escaped from police custody and was declared proclaimed offender, and his younger brother Manav Soni, besides Bhura Kurashi, Upender Singh, Anuj Kumar, Bhura Tomar, Sonu Raghav, Nadeem, Harjinder Singh and Ajay Singh. Another accused, Ali Raja, was never arrested.
It was on December 5, 2013, that the court had declared Soni, a truck operator said to be the kingpin, a proclaimed offender. He was reportedly wanted in several other robberies across the country, but escaped from police custody in November 2013 while being taken to Ferozepur from the Rupnagar jail.