2013 builder murder case: High court stays trial
The Bombay high court (HC) on Monday temporarily stayed trial in the 2013 murder case of builder Sunil Kumar Lohariya.
A division bench of acting chief justice BP Dharmadhikari and justice NR Borkar has stayed the trial till March 5. It passed the order on a petition filed by Sandeep, son of Lohariya, seeking transfer of the trial from the current trial judge to some other judge on the apprehension that the judge was biased in favour of the accused.
On February 16, 2013, two people assaulted Lohariya outside his Vashi office. While one of them fired at Lohariya, the other struck his neck with a sharp object. The builder later succumbed to his injuries in hospital. A total of 14 people were arrested and are being tried.
Sandeep approached the HC after his plea for transfer of the trial was rejected by the principal sessions judge, Thane, on January 25, 2020.
In his petition, he stated that the trial is being conducted by the current judge since the third week of August 2019 and since then, the judge has hurriedly recorded the testimony of 31 witnesses.
As an example, he has pointed out that CCTV footage of the assault was required to be shown to an eyewitness, so as to enable the witness identify the two accused seen clearly in the footage. There is a big screen and other requisite accessories, software and technician available in the court to play the footage, but the request of the special public prosecutor to play the footage in front of the witness was rejected.
Sandeep has contended that playing the CCTV footage is just and necessary for bringing home the guilt of the accused, but the request was rejected without any cogent reasons. “It is clear from the procedure adopted for recording of evidence that the judge is biased in favour of the accused,” stated his petition. “It is submitted that if the evidence is available and still the evidence is not perused, then the entire effort of the investigation authorities to collect the CCTV footage would be rendered futile,” it added.
The petition also pointed out that one of the witnesses, while deposing before the trial court, tried to mention that he was threatened by Suresh Bijlani, one of the accused, but the statement was not taken on record by the judge and instead, the witness was told to inform the police about the threat, saying such complaints are required to be lodged with the police.
The petition listed another instance, when on December 10, 2019, another witness was not willing to disclose his address, as he was scared of the accused, but this fact was not taken on record by the trial court. “This fact has been deliberately not recorded in the deposition. Once something is not recorded in deposition, it cannot be read in evidence and this would not be considered at the time of final decision,” stated the petition, adding, “The reason for the aforesaid actions is loud and clear and another instance of safeguarding the accused.”
According to investigators, the murder was the fallout of enmity between builders