Supreme Court stays trial against TN Minister I Periyasamy in illegal land allotment case

Supreme Court grants interim relief to convicted former cop Pradeep Sharma in fake encounter case

The Supreme Court on Monday sought the response of the Maharashtra government to a plea filed by former Mumbai cop Pradeep Sharma challenging his conviction and life sentence in a 2006 fake encounter case. [Pradeep Rameshwar Sharma vs State of Maharashtra].

A bench of Justices Hrishikesh Roy and Prashant Kumar Mishra also granted Sharma exemption from surrendering before authorities until further orders.

The Bombay High Court had On March 19, Sharma was convicted in the fake encounter case and sentenced him to life imprisonment.

The case arose from the encounter killing of Ramnarayan Gupta alias Lakhan Bhaiya, an alleged member of Chhota Rajan’s gang.

Gupta and his friend were picked up on November 11, 2006 in a suburb area in Mumbai and Gupta was killed on the same day in a fake encounter.

The case was registered in 2009 after a special investigation team found that a rival had paid police to kill Gupta. The SIT was formed on the basis of a High Court order directing registration of FIR.

After a 5-year long trial, a sessions court in Mumbai acquitted Sharma in July 2013 but convicted 21 people including 13 police personnel. While three of the policemen were convicted of murder, the remaining 18 were convicted for abetment.

The State government challenged the acquittal order before High Court claiming that the encounter had been staged. The police officers too filed appeals challenging their conviction.

After an extensive hearing. the High Court eventually found merit in the submissions of the State government and convicted Sharma.

It also upheld the convictions of 12 other police officers and a civilian, Hitesh Solanki.

A division bench of Justices Revati Mohite Dere and Gauri V Godse of the High Court set aside the order of the sessions court acquitting Sharma on the ground that apart from ballistic evidence, there was other evidence which was overlooked by the sessions judge.

This led to the instant appeal by Sharma before the apex court.

Senior Counsel Mukul Rohatgi and Sidharth Luthra appeared for Sharma. Senior Advocate Yug Mohit Chaudhry appeared for the Maharashtra government.

Rohatgi submitted that his client was not present at the crime scene and only his revolver was alleged used.

The State submitted that Sharma is a repeat offender who ran an illegal squad that intimidated and abducted others.

Justice Roy remarked that the High Court verdict was well constructed and delivered after taking great pains to dissect the trial court order of acquittal.

It, however, proceeded to issue notice to the State and granted interim relief to Sharma.

Sharma was in the news in a couple of years ago after he was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in connection with the Antilia bomb threat and connected case of murder of businessman Mansukh Hiren in 2021.

He was granted bail by the Supreme Court in that case in August 2023.

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