Just a day before the sessions court was to frame charges against Salil Chaturvedi, owner of Provogue, for allegedly possessing three grams of cocaine, the Bombay High Court has stayed the separation of the trial in the case.
Justice VK Tahilramani on Monday, stayed the separation of trial on a petition filed by the Maharashtra government challenging the separation of the trial in the case till July 9.
The Sessions court in March 2007 had separated Chaturvedi’s trial from the other eight accused in the drug seizure case and the Sessions court was to frame charges against Chaturvedi on Tuesday for possession of 3 gms of cocaine.
If Chaturvedi is tried separately then he would be tried only for possession of 3 gms of cocaine. However, if there is one trial, he will be tried as a part of larger conspiracy in the case in which, the total seizure of banned substance amounts to 867 gms.
According to the government, Chaturvedi is a part of the larger conspiracy and hence his trial cannot be separated. Three of the accused in the main case are the employees of Chaturvedi who work at the Provogue lounge – manager Alwyn Sequeira, his brother in Chennai Joseph Sequeira and chief executive Vishal Manghanani.
Alwyn was arrested when he tried to send the contraband to his brother in Chennai. Two police officers are also arrested for switching the contraband with regular powder so that it does not show in the forensics tests.
The appeal filed by the government states that if the trial is separated then there would be “grave prejudice to the case and would result in miscarriage of justice.”
Besides, all accused persons were in touch with each other over telephone. Also, it was during the interrogation Manghanani had confessed and had allegedly named Chaturvedi. contends governments application.
However, according to Chaturvedi, nine different people were arrested on separate days with different quantity of narcotic substances. Hence the trial should be separated.
All nine accused were charged under sections of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act for possession of narcotic substance for personal consumption or for sale. They were also charged for conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code.
Last December, HC quashed the Sessions court’s order of separation of trial and asked the sessions judge to hear the matter afresh. After a fresh hearing, the Sessions court once again separated Chaturvedi’s trial, which is challenged by the government.
Chaturvedi was arrested on 3 August, 2005 on the charges of possessing 3-gram of cocaine powder in his residence. Earlier, on January 26, 2005 when the police seized four vials of cocaine being smuggled from Chennai and arrested Allwyn Sequeira, the manager of the Provogue lounge allegedly the importer of the consignment.
During the investigation, Sequeira revealed that the original consignee of the vials was Vishal Manghnani, former employee of Provogue.
Two police officials, Suresh Shinde and Shantilal Jadhav were also arrested for allegedly trying to replace the cocaine powder with boric powder and extort money from Manghnani. Three Tanzanian nationals were also caught with a commercial quantity of drugs and were arrested in July 2005.