Prosecution has faced yet another setback in case of gangster-turned-politician Arun Gawli after the Bombay High Court discharged him from a 1990 kidnapping case. Earlier, the HC had quashed the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) invoked against him in an alleged extortion case.
While discharging Gawli from the case, Justice SC Dharmadhikari termed his arrest as ‘clear case of political rivalry’.
Gawli had sought discharge from sessions court which was rejected. The sessions judge stated that although Gawli’s name did not figure in the original FIR, the co-accused have named him, hence there is strong suspicion of his involvement.
Justice Dharmadhikari observed that the order of the sessions court was ‘perverse and grossly wrong and passed without application of mind’.
The court further observed that, "Entire evidence needs to be taken into account. Suspicion cannot take place of evidence."
The case was committed to sessions court for trial in 2004 after which the charges were framed against Gawli. This was just prior to Vidhan Sabha elections in the 2004. The court observed that framing of charges just prior to the Vidhan Sabha elections points clear case of political rivalry."
The case was registered against Gawli in 1990 on a complaint lodged by one Ahmed Shaikh, who worked with a builder. Shaikh complained that Gawli’s men abducted him (Shaikh) and took him to Dagdi chawl on April 12, 1990, and manhandled him threatened him of dire consequences if he did not give him Rs 4 lakh from his builder. Gawli was charged with kidnapping Sheikh who used to work for a builder-contractor Ratilal Shah. Case was registered against 11 persons including Gawli.
According to police two persons who claimed to belong to Gawli's gang approached Sheikh on April 21, 1990, when he was sitting outside his Maulana Azad residence. They told Sheikh that the brother of Dagdi Chawl (Gawli) was calling him. When Sheikh told them that Gawli was externed, the persons forcefully took Sheikh to Dagdi Chawl, abode of Gawli.
There Sheikh was confined to a room and questioned by some men about his boss. They later threatened Sheikh to reveal Ratilal Shah's number and asked him to get Rs four lakhs or else they would kill Sheikh.
However, he was later released after they beat him up. He then called Ratilal Shah and told him about the entire episode. Ratilal and Sheikh registered a complaint against Gawli and his men with Agripada police station.
The police had claimed that Gawli was identified during an identification parade on May 1, 1990.
However, Gawli’s counsels Ashok Mundargi and Ganesh Gole argued that when the alleged offence took place, Gawli was lodged at the Nagpur jail.