Confessions of accused had led to MCOCA charges
The crime branch had, on March 17 last year, invoked the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) against the four accused who had allegedly shot dead advocate Shahid Azmi on February 11 last year.
On February 16, the crime branch arrested Devendra Bapurao Jagtap, 28, Pintu Devram Dhagle, 22 - the two alleged shooters and Vinod Yashwant Vichare, 32, - the mafia manager. The third shooter, Hasmukh Shankar Solanki, 32, was arrested on March 10.
The crime branch had observed that the sophistication with which the killing was executed indicated that it was not the handiwork of a local or small-time criminal.
The police stated that during interrogation it was revealed that the killing was done at the behest of notorious gang leader Bharat Nepali.
Nepali portrayed himself as a patriot and believed Azmi was an anti-social element. Azmi, had in the past, represented accused in the 7/11 serial train bombings and Fahim Ansari, accused in the 26/11 terror attacks.
Nepali is believed to be a close aide of underworld gangster Chhota Rajan who is known to target people with an 'anti-establishment' or 'anti-national' image.
The prosecution had taken the stand that for applying MCOCA there had to be an association with an organised crime syndicate, which was represented by the Bharat Nepali gang.