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Sunday, Aug 18, 2019

Court in Pune acquits gangster Mohol, Bhalero in murder of suspected IM operative

Mohammad Qateel Mohammad Jafir Siddiqui an undertrial at Yerawada central jail for a 2011 case was found strangled to death on June 8, 2012

pune Updated: Jun 27, 2019 17:12 IST
Shalaka Shinde
Shalaka Shinde
Hindustan Times, Pune
Qateel Siddiqui was an under trial at Yerawada central jail for a 2011 case related to involvement in the blast at German Bakery and attempting to plant a bomb near Dagdusheth Halwai temple.
Qateel Siddiqui was an under trial at Yerawada central jail for a 2011 case related to involvement in the blast at German Bakery and attempting to plant a bomb near Dagdusheth Halwai temple. (Hindustan Times File Photo)

A Pune court on Wednesday acquitted notorious gangster Sharad Mohol and his accomplice Alok Bhalerao in the 2012 murder case of Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative Qateel Siddiqui.

Additional sessions judge SH Gwalani acquitted the duo for want of evidence and benefit of doubt in a case that had hit national headlines after Siddiqui, a suspect in terror cases in Delhi, Bengaluru and Pune, was found strangled to death inside a high-security Yerawada prison shared by Mohol and Bhalerao.

The judge in his order observed, “All the judiciary laid parameters defining the quality and content of the circumstantial evidence bring home the guilt of the accused on a criminal charge. I find no difficulty to hold that in the case at hand, prosecution has failed to meet the same. Resultantly, accused are entitled for benefit of doubt.” The judge also stated in his order that he has no hesitation to hold that “Siddiqui met with homicidal death”.

Mohammad Qateel Mohammad Jafir Siddiqui was an undertrial at Yerawada central jail for a 2011 case of attempting to plant a bomb near Dagduseth Halwai temple, investigated by the anti-terrorism squad. On June 8, 2012, at 9:45 am Siddiqui was found strangled to death, following which Mohol and Bhalerao were arrested by Pune police.

“The court rejected Mohol’s extra judicial confession extracted in front of jailer,” said public prosecutor Vikas Ghogre Patil. While the police had accused Mohol and Bhalerao of strangling Siddiqui to death using pyjama string, which the investigators claimed was burned by the duo and flushed it down a toilet, the prosecution could not prove its claim.

According to the first information report (FIR) in the case, Mohol, who is facing other crime charges and is already convicted in murder of another gangster Kishore Marne, along with Bhalerao, was with Siddiqui in cell number 2 of the high-security Anda Cell of the prison when Bhalerao asked the deceased how he could sleep having killed so many people. The deceased allegedly told Mohol that he was responsible for the Delhi Jama Masjid bomb blast as well as a bomb blast in a stadium in Bengaluru.

The deceased also allegedly told Mohol and Bhalerao that he had attempted a similar blast at the Dagdusheth Halwai Ganapati temple in Pune for which he was being prosecuted.

According to the initial case, the deceased went on to tell the two that he was soon going to Delhi. The accused had allegedly believed that if Siddiqui is allowed to leave for Delhi, he might bail out and attempt a bomb blast at the Ganapati temple again. Therefore, on Friday morning, Mohol allegedly entered Siddiqui’s cell with Bhalerao, strangulated him with the string of his ‘ash coloured bermuda shorts’ while Bhalerao allegedly held his legs.

The court examined 16 witnesses in the case. The Maharashtra ATS was probing Qateel’s role in allegedly attempting to plant a bomb outside the Dagdusheth Halwai temple in the city. In 2016, a local court had awarded life imprisonment to seven persons, including Mohol, for the 2010 murder of a member of a rival gang in Pune.

Mohol and Bhalerao are currently lodged in Taloja jail.

Benefit of doubt and acquittal for dreaded criminals

Additional sessions judge SH Gwalani cited weak case by the prosecution for granting acquittal based on benefit of doubt to Sharad Mohol and Alok Bhalerao in the 2012 murder case of Indian Mujahideen operative Qateel Siddiqui in Pune’s Yerawada Central Jail.

The prosecution had examined 17 witnesses, including three prisoners who were also lodged in various cells of the prison’s high-security Anda Cell, an egg-shaped high-security block having 15 cells. Siddiqui was lodged in cell number 2, Mohol in 7 and Bhalerao in 5.

“Of the 17 witnesses, three were inmates. They all turned hostile. The private witnesses also did not support the case. Only police witnesses stood their ground,” said public prosecutor Vikas Ghogare Patil.

The three inmates were identified as Akbar Munir Shaikh who was in cell number 3, Balasaheb Baban Waghire (cell number 6), and Rohidas Ananda Chorge (cell number 5) of the Anda Cell.

Dr Satyanarayan Punpale, head professor, forensic medicine at Sassoon General Hospital had stated that Siddiqui had been strangulated to death and that it may have been possible due to the bermuda string. However, the initial punchnama report failed to mention finding of any bermuda from the cells of Mohol and Bhalerao. The judge pointed out that the police could not prove the motive of the accused to commit the murder.

Security lapses at prison pointed out by court

-Medical examination of Qateel Siddiqui’s body had shown that he had consumed liquor while being lodged in the cell of Yerawada jail, according to the court order in the matter.

“The question arises how alcohol or liquor came in the high security area of jail. This also creates doubt to the story of the prosecution,” reads a part of the order that questions the security at the time of the murder in the prison.

-Questioning the security of the prison, the judge observes that the incident happened despite the cell being ‘high security. -“It indicates negligence on the part of jail authorities in providing safety and security to the prisoners under their control,” the order reads.

Shot into fame after Siddiqui’s murder, Mohol is unlikely to come out of jail as he faces other crimes

Local gangster Sharad Mohol, who was accused of committing numerous crimes, was acquitted by the Pune court on Wednesday in connection with Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative Mohammed Qateel Siddique’s murder with orders that he be released unless facing trial in other crimes.

While Mohol and his accomplice Alok Bhalerao were acquitted as witnesses turned hostile and there was no corroborative evidence, the notorious gangster is unlikely to come out of jail soon.

Prakash Suryawanshi, the counsel representing Mohol and Bhalerao, said, “The judge disbelieved extrajudicial confessions and acquitted my clients. There was no solid evidence presented by prosecution in the case.”

Sharad Mohol
Sharad Mohol ( HT FILE )

Better known among his aides as ‘SM’, Mohol, 35, first came on police records in 2010 when he allegedly killed a criminal from rival gang Kishore Marne. In the next two years, Mohol had six serious crimes against him forcing the police to slap stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (Mcoca) against him.

In May 2016, the Pune court convicted Mohol and six others from his gang for the murder of Marne, also a notorious gangster. Mohol was sentenced to life imprisonment. According to police officials, Mohol-Marne rivalry emerged out of another murder of his relative and gangster Sandip Mohol. Soon he formed his own gang of eight persons.

The gang, according to the police official instrumental in nabbing him, was operational in Pune-Lonavla belt. Along with Bhalerao, others in the Mohol gang included Anil Khole (25) of Vadgaon Budruk and Ajay Tukaram Kadu alias Appa (26) of Kelewadi, Kothrud.

The popularity of Mohol gang also inspired a Marathi film – Mulshi Pattern. Hailing from Mutha village in Mulshi taluka, Mohol unsuccessfully contested polls for deputy sarpanch from the jail.

The police had accused Mohol and Bhalerao for using pyjama string to strangle Siddiqui to death at Yerwada prison where all three of them were lodged. Siddiqui, a native of Darbhanga, Bihar, was being probed for his role for planting bomb at Pune’s famous Dagadu Sheth Halwai temple besides German Bakery blast.

An associate of Indian Mujahideen chief Yasin Bhatkal, Siddiqui was first arrested by Delhi police special cell in November 2011 for his involvement in various blasts, including one at Chinnaswami stadium at Bengaluru and another at Delhi’s Jama Masjid. In May, Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad (ATS) obtained Siddiqui’s custody following which he was brought to Pune.

The ATS was investigating Siddiqui’s role to blow up Dagadu Sheth Halwai temple on February 13, 2010, which was averted due to an alert flower vendor, who refused to accept a bag having bomb from the IM operative.

Siddiqui, during his interrogation, had revealed that his handler Yasin Bhatkal had divided task between him and another IM operative Himayat Baig, who was later convicted in German Bakery blast case.

First Published: Jun 27, 2019 17:10 IST

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