In a setback for the city Crime Branch, the special Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety of Civil Aviation Act court on Tuesday acquitted two men arrested in connection with the alleged sabotage attempt on a helicopter owned by industrialist Anil Ambani. Pebbles and gravel were found in the helicopter’s gearbox on April 23 last year while it was parked at the hangar of Airworks Indian Engineering Ltd.
Special Judge MV Kulkarni acquitted Uday Warekar and Palraj Thevar, giving them the benefit of doubt.
According to the prosecution, the incident was the fallout of a dispute between Airworks and the union of 52 non-technical staff, the Maharashtra General Kamgar Mahasangh, which has been on since 1995. “The accused wanted to take revenge,” argued Special Public Prosecutor Pradeep Gharat.
The prosecution said Warekar dropped the pebbles and gravel into the gearbox with Thevar’s help. Both were arrested on May 4, 2009.
The prosecution also said technicians Bharat Borge and Ramshankar Chauhan found the stones and soil when they opened the gearbox’s filler cap.
Borge, a key witness, was found dead on the tracks near Vile Parle on April 29, 2009, under mysterious circumstances.
Defence lawyer Vinayak Bichu argued that the sabotage was a management plot meant to sack the helpers. Bichu also said that while the prosecution termed the hangar a secure area, but in 2007 there was a theft of aircraft parts worth Rs 6 crore.
Bichu also argued that there were no eyewitnesses and that the prosecution had not proved that it was Warekar and Thevar who put the pebbles and gravel in the gearbox.
Bichu said he had filed a case in the labour court seeking their reinstatement.
Though the sessions court had rejected their bail, the Bombay High Court granted them bail on November 10, 2009.