Mumbai: The Bombay High Court (HC) has vacated the stay on the trial in the murder of advocate Shahid Azmi. The HC stayed the trial in Sept 2022 while hearing a plea filed by one of the accused, Hasmukh Solanki, seeking transfer to another judge alleging bias.
Azmi, who was representing several accused in the 7/11 train blasts cases, Malegaon 2006 bomb blasts cases, the Aurangabad arms haul case, and the Ghatkopar blasts case, was shot dead in his office in Kurla on Feb 11, 2010.
Material on record not sufficient to draw conclusion
While rejecting the plea, Justice PD Naik observed, “The material on record is not sufficient to draw conclusion that the trial court is biased against Solanki and that he would not get fair trial before the said court. No case is made out for transfer of investigation.”
Initially, he filed an application before the principal judge of Mumbai sessions court seeking transfer of case which was rejected. He then approached the HC.
According to his advocate Milan Desai, during cross examination, one of the witnesses deposed in a “demeaning, abhorrent and arrogant manner”. Despite request, the sessions judge, conducting the trial, neither reprimanded the witness nor took the same on record. Hence, Solanki alleged bias.
However, additional public prosecutor pointed out to the court that the principal judge had relied upon the trial judge’s report and rejected Solanki’s application.
Judge: Witness is found rude, arrogant while answering questions in cross-examination
Justice Naik, after hearing the arguments, had reserved the plea for order and meanwhile asked the trial court “to defer the recording of evidence”.
Rejecting the plea, he said, “In the event the aforesaid witness or any other witness is found rude, arrogant while answering questions in cross-examination or otherwise, the trial court is expected to caution him or reprimand him.”
Solanki, Devendra Jagptap, Pintu Dagale and Vinod Vichare are facing trial for their alleged complicity in Azmi’s murder. They were all arrested on the same day and subsequently released on bail.
Santosh Shetty, former Chhota Rajan aide, too, was arrested in the case. He was subsequently discharged from the case in 2014.
On Feb 11, 2010, around 8 pm, when Azmi was at home, his office boy called him to say that four people had come to meet him at his office in the next room. He saw two men waiting inside his cabin and two outside. When Azmi called them inside his cabin, they shot at him and fled from the spot. His office boy and mother rushed him to the hospital where he was declared dead.
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