Prima facie, the view taken by the designated Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) court in revoking provisions of the stringent legislation against alleged killers of noted lawyer Shahid Azmi was correct, observed the Bombay high court on Wednesday.
Azmi was shot dead around 7.30pm on February 11, 2010 in his office at Kurla. The crime branch arrested four persons in the case – Devendra Jagtap, 30, Pintu Dangle 28, Vinod Vichare, 32 and Hasmukh Solanki, 25. The murder was purportedly committed at the instance of Bharat Nepali, a former armyman-turned-ganster who was gunned down by suspected Chhota Rajan henchmen in Bangkok in November last year.
“From the order it appears that Bharat Nepali had paid money to the assailants and therefore it involves the issue of pecuniary gains. But, provisions of MCOCA cannot be invoked only because of pecuniary gains,” observed the division bench of justice BH Marlapalle and justice Abhay Thipsay while reserving its order on an appeal filed by state government challenging the designated court’s order on January 20, 2011, revoking provisions of MCOCA.
The crime branch had initially invoked provisions of MCOCA on the ground that the killers were paid Rs1 lakh by Nepali.
The MCOCA court had, however said that the definition of pecuniary gains, as stated in the legislation, is the money offered by sources outside the organized crime syndicate, and not the amounts that changed hands within gang-members.
Additional public prosecutor Hitendra Dedhia pointed out that there was material to indicate that the four assailants were affiliated to Nepali.
But the contention failed to impact the judges, who said they were concerned only with the material placed before the designated court, and not that appearing in police files.