A city sessions court sentenced Prabhu Shankar Agarwal, owner of Haldiram confectionary chain, and four others to life imprisonment for conspiring and attempting to murder a tea vendor on March 30, 2005.
Criminal conspiracy and attempt to murder under sections 120B and 307 of the Indian Penal Code were slapped on Agarwal and the contract killers he appointed.
The sections carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, which the judge applied in this case.
The other four are contract killers Gopal Tiwari, Agarwal’s manager and linkman between Agarwal and Tiwari, Arun Khandelwal, and Tiwari’s henchmen Raja Sonkar and Manoj Thakur.
The convicts were taken back to Alipore jail where they have been lodged since Wednesday, the day they were convicted.
As soon as the judge pronounced the sentence, the convicts instructed their lawyers to appeal to Calcutta High Court and apply for bail.
Earlier, Agarwal pleaded for mercy citing employees’ interest. He said that he had 1,000 employees and a big business, which will suffer. “Sir, please give me minimum sentence,” Agarwal said.
The other four convicts prayed for leniency on their family grounds.
The case dates back to 2005, when Agarwal had hired Gopal Tiwari to finish off Thakur who refused to shift his tea stall from the ground floor of a multistoried building Agarwal had bought in 2000. Agarwal wanted to set up a shopping mall in the building and the ground floor was earmarked for a food plaza.
All tenants were evicted from the ground floor of the building except Thakur, who refused to shift his 170-square foot tea stall that was blocking the entrance.
Thakur also obtained a stay from the High Court on a eviction decree against him by Agarwal from a city civil court in 2004.
Agarwal also offered Rs 4 lakh to Thakur, but he rejected it. Agarwal then hired Tiwari to eliminate Thakur.
But the bullets that Tiwari and his accomplices fired at 5:15 in the morning of 30 March 2005 hit Thakur’s 18-year old nephew Pramod in the leg. Agarwal was in London on that day.
Posta police station started an attempt to murder case and arrested Tiwari from Hyederbad after two months. Agarwal was arrested at New Delhi after four months when he returned from London.
Subsequently, detective department of Kolkata Police took charge of the case and filed chargesheet on the basis of evidence of 44 witnesses.