In a set back to the state, the Bombay high court upheld the acquittal of five accused, who were arrested for their alleged role in the murder of actor Manisha Koirala’s secretary Ajit Diwani in 2001.
A division bench of justice BH Marlapalle and justice UD Salvi dismissed the appeal filed by the state challenging the acquittal of Upendra Singh, Nizamuddin Abdul Rauf, Akhilesh Singh, Ayub Ibrahim Patel and Shah Alam. The trial court acquitted them on July 10, 2009.
The court observed: “We confirm the findings of the trial court that the prosecution could not prove its case against the accused and regarding their complicity in the murder. Hence, this appeal is hereby dismissed.”
Diwani was shot dead by three assailants at his office situated at Andheri (West), on June 30, 2001. Prosecution said the assailants were sent by extradited gangster, Abu Salem, who had allegedly demanded a ransom from Diwani, which he refused. The trial court, however, discharged Salem, as there was no evidence against him.
Initially, the police arrested Dip Singh from Uttar Pradesh for his alleged role in the murder and also recovered a revolver from him. Singh’s confessional statement was recorded, but he fled and was later killed in an encounter. The trial against him was dropped.
The Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) was invoked in the case. The trial court dropped the MCOCA charges saying the prosecution had failed to prove that earlier chargesheets were filed against the accused and also they were members of an organised crime syndicate.
Upholding the dropping of MCOCA charges by the trial court, high court observed: “We do not find any error in this regard.”
Refusing to reverse the order of the trial court, the judges observed: “It is well settled that in exceptional cases where there are compelling circumstances and the judgment under appeal is found to be perverse, the appellate court can interfere with the order of the acquittal.”