‘Duty-bound to tell the truth’: Court orders perjury proceedings against cop
In a rare instance, the Bombay High Court ordered perjury proceedings against a police head constable who, as an eyewitness, failed to identify the men who murdered builder Swapnil Shirke. The 30-year-old was killed inside the premises of the sessions court in Nagpur in June 2002.
Deepak Trivedi, who was the lone policeman escorting Shirke to the court and was injured and hospitalised in the attack, had failed to identify the accused before a local court claiming that the trial in the case had started after 10 years.
Shirke, who was being produced in the court as an accused in an alleged murder case, was chased in the sessions court premises before being stabbed multiple times by 10 men. A division bench of the Supreme court had dismissed an appeal by the accused and upheld the life sentence awarded to Congress corporator Vijay Krishnarao Mate and six others including Raju Bhadre, Kiran Umrao Kaithe, Dinesh Gaiki, Umesh Dahake, Ritesh Gawande, and Kamlesh Nimbarte in 2017. Four others arrested in the case were acquitted for want of evidence.
In 2015, the Bombay high court, while sentencing the accused to life imprisonment, had initiated perjury proceedings against head constable Trivedi for failing to identify the accused in the case and issued showcause notice asking him why he should not be prosecuted.
The high court’s notice was taken into consideration by the division bench of Justice NW Sambre and Justice NB Suryawanshi while ordering the prosecution of Trivedi for perjury.
“High court cannot be a silent spectator where stinking facts warrants interference in order to serve the interests of justice,” noted the bench and added, “If this court remains oblivious to the patent facts on record, it would tantamount to failure in performing its obligation under the law.”
Trivedi in his response to the high court notice had stated that he committed the mistake of not identifying some of accused because a period of 10 years had lapsed when he testified before the trial court. He had sought pardon on the ground that he had put in 22 years unblemished service and had been compulsorily retired.
The high court, however, refused to accept the explanation. “We are not convinced that because of lapse of 10 years, some mistake has taken place while identifying some of the accused and that the said mistake was not deliberate or intentional.”
The bench said being a responsible policeman on duty and since the deceased was in his custody in the court premises when he was brutally murdered, being the eyewitness, Trivedi was duty-bound to tell the truth before the trial court. “However, he has resorted to falsehood and hence, we are unable to accept the explanation offered by him.”
The bench also rejected the arguments advanced on his behalf that the high court had no authority to order prosecution for perjury. “This court not only has the authority to exercise such jurisdiction but also has an obligation to exercise such power in appropriate cases,” said the bench. “Looking to the facts of the present case, in our considered opinion, this is a fit case to exercise such jurisdiction, so as to maintain the majesty of judicial process and the purity of legal system,” noted the bench, while ordering for his prosecution.
Shirke, an engineering graduate, wanted to start his own business and had ventured into real estate and with uncle Ranjit had decided to develop 21 acres of land at Sakkardara. He had formed a cooperative society under the name Bhagyashri Cooperative Society in 2001 to develop the land which came as succession from the erstwhile royal family of Raje Raghuji Bhosle.
Then sitting Congress corporator Vijay Mate had allegedly encroached upon 7,000 square feet of the land in the property that belonged to Shirke, and when he tried to settle the dispute amicably, Mate asked Shirke to stay away from developing the land which set off an ugly war between them.
On July 18, 2001, Mate was allegedly shot at and his confidante Sanjay Gaikwad was killed. Shirke was arrested as the main accused in the case. It was in this case that he was being produced when Mate reportedly engineered an attack on him in broad daylight and killed him.