Fake encounter murder case: ‘Perverse’ govt order to let out guilty cops struck down by HC
Observing that “courts cannot be silent spectators to blatantly perverse and unsustainable government decisions,” the Bombay high court on Wednesday struck down a December 2015 government order, which suspended the sentences of 11 policemen convicted for killing an alleged gangster in 2006. “It appears that all agencies of the government had submitted reports to facilitate the release of respondent Nos. 4 to 14, by submitting biased reports,” said a bench of justices BP Dharmadhikari and Revati Mohite-Dere.
Ramnarayan Gupta, known by his alias Lakhan Bhaiya, was killed in a fake encounter on November 11, 2006. A Special Investigation Team, appointed on orders of the high court, found that a rival of Gupta’s had contracted the policemen a contract to kill Gupta. The fake encounter was the execution of this contract. A sessions court convicted 21 people, including 13 police officers, and sentenced them to life imprisonment in 2013. Ten policemen were found guilty of aiding and abetting the fake encounter and three police officers were found guilty of murder. The convicted policemen submitted an application to be let out of jail, citing ill health and the absence of male family members as reasons.
In December 2015, the home department, headed by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, issued an order suspending the sentence for six months. Eleven ex-policemen were immediately released from prison, but the high court stayed the order soon after, directing the 11 to report back to jail to serve remaining prison terms.
On Wednesday, a bench of justices BP Dharmadhikari and Revati Mohite-Dere was critical of the 2015 government order. “The impugned order shows not only non-application of mind, but also consideration of irrelevant factors and non-consideration of relevant factors,” said the judges.
The reports submitted by various authorities in this case were found to be unsatisfactory by the court. “We find that there is complete non-application of mind by the learned Special Judge, CBI, whilst giving his opinions,” the judges said about two separate reports submitted by the then special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) judge who was criticised for abdicating his duty “in a casual and cavalier manner.”
The judges also lashed out at the then commissioner of Mumbai Police. “Even the opinion given by the Commissioner of Police is flawed… there is no reference to the seriousness of the crime in question,” the bench said.
The 11 convicted police men are Dilip Palande (57), Nitin Sartape (53), Ganesh Harpude (56), Anand Patade (46), Prakash Kadam (60), Devidas Sakpal (52), Pandurang Kokam (56), Ratnakar Kamble (45), Sandip Sardar (44), Tanaji Desai (49) and Vinayak Shinde (46).