The police have announced a Rs 10,000 reward for anyone providing information on convict Vijay Thopte, who jumped parole in February 2005 after being sentenced to life for murdering union leader Datta Samant.
On January 16, 1997, Datta Samant, a former Member of Parliament and Union leader was shot dead near Powai. On July 25, 2000, the sessions court had sentenced Thopte, Ganpat Bamne and Arun Londhe to life for killing Samant. Later, Londhe died in jail.
Commissioner of Police D. Sivanandhan, who was present in the Bombay High Court on Monday, told the court that they had given advertisements in newspapers and television channels last month announcing a reward of Rs 10,000 for any authentic information on Thopte.
A division bench of Justice B.H. Marlapalle and Justice Mridula Bhatkar asked the police to publish the announcement of the award and Thopte’s photograph in the local newspapers.
“Mr Sivanandhan, we do not like calling you to the court. We know you are a busy man,” said Justice Marlapalle. “But the situation has reached an alarming rate. Every third appeal that comes up for hearing has one convict absconding.”
Five years ago, the state government formed a committee to review the guidelines of jail reforms. “'What is the status of that committee which was formed by the chief secretary?” asked Justice Marlapalle.
Sivanandhan assured the court that he will check the status. “I will do my best,” he said.
A police officer involved in tracing the absconding convict said Thopte had last made contact with his family four years ago. Thopte is from Pune and his family still lives there.
The high court had summoned commissioner of police, Pune, Satyapal Singh, also. Additional public prosecutor Pradeep Hingorani told the court that Singh had left Pune for Mumbai but had to return due to some emergency.
Bamne’s counsel Sayaji Nangre said the court should separate his client’s appeal from Thopte’s. “Bamne is in jail since his arrest in 1997. If Thopte is not found, then Bamne will have to spend many more years in jail,” said Nangre.
Considering that the sessions court had examined 73 witnesses and there was bulk of documents to be examined during the hearing in appeal, the judges said they were not willing to separate Bamne’s appeal.