Bombay High Court
Bombay High Court

Mumbai: In a major setback a real estate agent, accused of conspiring and killing a developer in Navi Mumbai, the Bombay High Court has turned down his application seeking bail. The accused is in police custody from October 2013 for his role in the infamous Sunil Lahoriya murder case.

A bench of Justice Rajesh Ketkar, who was especially assigned this matter, said there was sufficient material to deny bail to Arif Dastgir Shaikh, accused in the murder case of Lahoriya.

The builder Lahoriya was killed in 2013 due to an enmity between him and prime accused Suresh Bijlani over illegalities in several housing projects in Navi Mumbai. Several persons, including Bijlani and Shaikh, have been arrested in the case.

As far as Shaikh is concerned, he was arrested for playing an active role in hatching the conspiracy to eliminate Lahoriya. He is also accused of having close relations with the main perpetrators of the offence as also the shooters, who fired at Lahoriya.

The prosecution has also accused Shaikh of playing active role for monetary benefits by eliminating Lahoriya, who was vocal against the illegal development projects being carried out by Shaikh and other co-accused in the matter.

In his defence, Shaikh pointed out that at least four accused in the case were out on bail and accordingly he sought bail on grounds of parity. He also argued that the prosecution did not recover any weapon from his possession and thus, he should not be made to languish in jail.

Shaikh also highlighted the “delay” in conducting the trial owing to the absence of the special public prosecutor. At this, public prosecutor Aruna Kamath-Pai informed Justice Ketkar that the role of those four accused was not as major as that of Shaikh.

She further informed the bench that the erstwhile special prosecutor left the case in between due to her poor health and the delay was apparent as a new prosecutor was to be appointed.

Having heard the rival contentions, Justice Ketkar said, “I do not find that any case is made out for enlarging the applicant (Shaikh) on bail. I am thus satisfied from the material on record that prima facie the applicant has played the active role in the commission of offence.”

While accepting the submissions of Kamath-Pai, the court said the alleged delay is not attributable to the prosecution as “obviously” some time was required to appoint a new prosecutor.

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