1998 double murder case in Mumbai: High court upholds Vijay Palande’s life sentence
Mumbai city news: The court dismissed an appeal by Palande challenging his conviction and the life term, and held that though the prosecution’s case was based on circumstantial evidence, the “established circumstances unerringly pointed to his guilt.”mumbai Updated: Jun 30, 2017 09:38 IST
The Bombay high court on Thursday upheld the life sentence that a trial court awarded Vijay Palande for murdering Juhu resident Swaraj Ranjan Das in 1998.
The court dismissed an appeal by Palande challenging his conviction and the life term, and held that though the prosecution’s case was based on circumstantial evidence, the “established circumstances unerringly pointed to his guilt.”
The bench also rapped the police for its “apathy and callous attitude,” and its initial reluctance to initiate a probe into the allegations made against Palande by Das’ family.
Vijay Palande is a criminal suspected to be linked to gangster Santosh Shetty. He was convicted for in 2002 for murdering Das and his son Anup, jumped parole, allegedly changed his looks and killed two other men 10 years later in 2012.
A former steward at Copper Chimney restaurant in Juhu, Palande had befriended the father and son, an engineer with Air India and a patron of the restaurant.
According to the prosecution’s case, Palande first abducted Anup, sedated and killed him. Thereafter, Palande convinced Das and his family that Anup was in trouble with the police and needed help. He asked Das to get some cash, lawyers, and accompany him to meet Anup. Palande and one of his aides, David, then stabbed Das to death and abandoned his body along Satara Road.
Das’ wife and daughter lodged missing cases and eventually, a case of kidnapping, but the police failed to take any action against Palande.
In February 1998, Das’ wife Usha managed to locate David and he was arrested and led the police to Palande. While the trial court in 2001 held Palande and David guilty of murdering Das, it let them off the charge of murdering Anup for lack of evidence.
The state however, did not appeal against the acquittal. The court expressed displeasure about this too.
“We express our anguish over the manner of investigation in both cases. Police apathy is writ large. Keeping in mind the said fact, the circumstantial evidence on record will have to be appreciated. Police apathy and lapses in investigation cannot as a rule, always benefit an accused,” the bench said.
“Considering the evidence on record, we find that the prosecution has proved the circumstance of Swaraj Ranjan Das, being last seen in the company of the appellant and they did not return thereafter,” it said.
The court also dismissed the defence’s argument that there were contradictions in the testimonies of Das’ wife and daughter.