In a dramatic development in the Neeraj Grover murder trial, two lawyers defending key accused, actress Maria Susairaj, withdrew from the case on Monday after a key panch witness alleged that the lawyers had threatened her.
Defence counsels Sudeep Pasbola and Acharya Murthy, told the court that they were ‘deeply disturbed’ by the allegation made by the witness.
Following the withdrawal of the lawyers, the court asked Susairaj to appoint a lawyer before September 15. Susairaj declined a lawyer from the state legal aid panel to defend her.
Alleging that the defence lawyers had threatened her, panch witness Usha Venkat Ramulu said Raju Wankhede, arrested by the Goregaon police on Saturday, came to her office and tried to offer her money for not deposing in the court.
When she asked Wankhede who sent him, he named advocate Murthy. “Wankhede then made me talk to a lawyer (who was not present in the sessions court on Monday) and that lawyer advised me not to depose in the case,” said Ramulu. The court has directed the prosecution to give police protection to Ramulu.
Ramulu identified Susairaj and told the court that the latter had made a statement to the police saying that she had burnt and disposed of Grover’s body at Manori. Ramulu said the police recovered a bag, a deodorant, a pendant and clothes that were lying near Grover’s bones.
Special public prosecutor RV Kini requested the court to conduct the hearing on a day-to-day basis as the other accused in the case and Susairaj’s boyfriend, Emile Jerome, had complained of the trial being prolonged. The court agreed to Kini’s suggestion.