Mumbai: The Bombay High Court has granted bail to model Divya Pahuja, an accused in Sandeep Gadoli’s alleged fake encounter case, observing that she has been in custody for nearly seven years and the trial is not likely to conclude soon.
Justice Prakash Naik granted bail to Pahuja on furnishing a personal bond of Rs1 lakh.
HC quotes Supreme Court judgment
“The applicant is a lady and she is in custody almost for a period (of) about seven years and there is no likelihood of trial getting over within a short span of time. At the time of incident the applicant was aged around 18 years. Considering all factual aspects, applicant can be granted bail on certain conditions,” Justice Naik said.
The HC noted that the Supreme Court has granted bail to undertrial prisoners who have been languishing in jail for substantial time.
The court had earlier rejected Pahuja’s bail pleas in February 2019 and February 2021, while expediting the trial in the case.
The judge also took note of the fact that the prosecution has given a list of 171 witnesses. However, so far only one witness has been examined. The charges were framed in November 2019.
Pahuja and her mother, Sonia Pahuja, were arrested in the case on July 14, 2016. Sonia was granted bail in March this year on the ground of prolonged incarceration and delayed trial. Two other accused were granted bail earlier.
Lawyer points out at prolonged incarceration
Sana Raees Khan, Pahuja’s advocate, pointed out her prolonged incarceration and that she had filed an application seeking speedy trial, which was never considered by the sessions court. The prosecution has referred to 171 witnesses, and even if half of these witnesses are examined, there is no prospect of the trial concluding in the near future, argued Khan.
Khan further argued that the prolonged incarceration has affected Pahuja’s mental health. Pahuja had preferred a handwritten application in the sessions court for plea bargaining on January 16, 2023. She withdrew the same on the next hearing stating that it was filed in a depressed state of mind.
Special public prosecutor Amin Solkar opposed the plea saying that the offence is of serious nature and there is sufficient evidence against Pahuja to show her involvement in the crime. Her earlier bail pleas were rejected on merits and there is no change in circumstances.
He argued that the accused are acting in connivance to delay the proceedings.
Gadoli, a convict and a proclaimed offender, was wanted by the Haryana Police in a 2015 murder case. He had 41 other cases registered against him. Pahuja was accused of accompanying Gadoli at the time of the encounter and of criminal conspiracy to cause his murder.