A designated Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) Court on Wednesday sentenced to life imprisonment mafia don Rajendra S. Nikhalje alias Chhota Rajan and eight others, who were found guilty in the sensational June 2011 killing of journalist J Dey.
While talking to the media persons outside the court, Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) Pradip Gharat said that this is the first time the mafia don has been convicted for life imprisonment in a major case like murder, a year after he was sentenced to seven years jail-term in a relatively minor passport forgery case.
The verdict was pronounced by Special MCOCA Court Judge Sameer Adkar, after several hours of heated arguments between prosecution and the defence lawyers after they were found guilty.
“Dey was a journalist, he represented the fourth pillar of Democracy. This case should be considered as the ‘rarest of rare’ category. A strong message needs to be sent out,” forcefully argued SPP Gharat while demanding the capital punishment for the accused. He also said that this case falls in the said category hence accused should be given death penalty.
After delivering the verdict, Special Judge Adkar turned to Chhota Rajan, who was produced in a video-conference from Tihar Central Jail, and said: “You will be spending your entire life in jail. Do you have anything to say?”
After a moment, without any expressions or emotions the dreaded gangster replied softly: “Thik hai.” (Its okay), before the jam-packed courtroom.
After the verdict, former Mumbai Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik, who had directed the case investigations said: "I am feeling relieved. On the acquittals, he said the CBI would take the necessary steps to appeal against them.
Deported from Bali, Indonesia in November 2015, and subsequently made an accused in the case, Chhota Rajan had ordered the hit on Dey.
The Special Court has acquitted two co-accused, including former journalist Jigna Vora, who was accused of provoking the mafia don, and Joseph Paulson, charged with providing mobile SIM cards for executing the planned murder.
On hearing the verdict acquitting her, Vora broke down, crying and weeping as some acquaintances consoled her.
Another co-accused Vinod Asrani, alias Vinod Chembur, who was charged as the main co-conspirator and financier of the entire operation, died due to natural causes in April 2015 at a private hospital. He had also “pointed out” Dey to the gunmen at the scene of the crime that morning.
The other co-accused sentenced to life terms in jail are Rohit Thangappan Joseph alias Satish Kalya, 28, Abhijeet Kasharam Shinde, 27, Arun Janardhan Dake, 27, Sachin Suresh Gaikwad, 35, Anil Bhanudas Waghmode, 35, Nilesh Narayan Shendge alias Bablu, 34, Mangesh Damodar Agawane, 25 (all who conducted recce and/or were shooters), and Deepak Sisodia, 28, of Dehradun, who supplied the weapons used in the operation.
The 56-year old Dey, a veteran crime reporter of Mumbai, was working as Editor (Investigations) with an eveninger, when he was gunned down on June 11, 2011 near his residence in suburban Powai.
The investigations into the case, which sent shockwaves in media circles around the country, were initially conducted by the local police but as its ramifications deepened, it was taken over by the Crime Branch. There was a sensational twist in the case when the police arrested Vora, the then deputy bureau chief of a English daily, in connection with the case on November 25 (2011) that year, besides 10 other accused.
In June 2015, the Special MCOCA court framed charges against the remaining 10 arrested-accused, including Vora.
The case attained further significant after Chhota Rajan's arrest, when the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) took over the Dey murder probe and added him as an accused in a supplementary charge-sheet filed before the Special Court.
During the probe, it also emerged that Vora was allegedly in regular contact with Chhota Rajan and provoked him into eliminating Dey. Soon after she was acquitted she broke down in the court and said that she was innocent, and added that the allegation against her was baseless as she had made the phone call to Chhota Rajan for some professional work while she was discharging her duty as journalist. (UNI)