Mumbai: The Bombay High Court has upheld the conviction of fugitive gangster Dawood Ibrahim’s aides Pravin Mishra alias Sachin and Abhishek Singh alias Harshu for killing a builder’s bodyguard at his Marine Lines office in 2011.
While upholding the duo’s life sentence, a division bench of justices Sadhana Jadhav and NR Borkar observed: “Considering the overall facts and circumstances of the case, no interference is called for in the impugned judgment and order (of the sessions court)".
Mishra and Singh were found guilty by the sessions court for killing Ajit Yerunkar, bodyguard of builder Manish Dhokalia on February 8, 2011. They were sentenced to life imprisonment and fined Rs 60,000 on various counts under the Indian Penal Code, the Arms Act and the Bombay Police Act.
The HC has upheld their conviction based on their identification by eye witnesses – receptionist and manager at the builder’s office and another bodyguard who chased the duo.
Advocates for the convicts – Yug Chaudhary and Aniket Vagal – argued that the receptionist was unable to recollect the facial features of the assailants immediately after the incident, hence it is impossible that she could have identified them more than one month later in the test identification parade. Receptionist had said that she was shaken and frightened as the incident had taken place all of a sudden.
The defense argued that in a moment of panic, the mind is unable to retain visual impressions. Under these circumstances, the identification of Mishra and Singh in test identification parade is utterly unreliable.
Dismissing this argument, the HC observed that although the receptionist’s interaction with the assailants was short, it cannot be said that she didn’t have an opportunity to see the assailants carefully. “Considering the facts and circumstances of the case, in our view, the faces of assailants must have got imprinted in her memory. It is thus difficult to assume that the faces of accused Nos.3 (Mishra) and 4 (Singh) would have got erased from her memory within a period of one month. The submission of learned counsel for the appellants therefore, cannot be accepted”, observed the judges in their order.
The assailants were even identified by the second bodyguard who caught hold of one of them by the t-shirt. However, he let go when Yerunkar fell after being hit by the second bullet. “In the facts and circumstances of the case, the submission that PW-2 (another bodyguard) did not have opportunity to see the faces of assailants cannot be accepted”, noted the judges.
The HC also did not consider the defence argument that the trajectory of the bullet was downwards. As per the eye witnesses, assailants were at the bottom of the stairs when they fired at Yerunkar. Hence the bullet trajectory would have to be upwards.
The HC observed: “It is well settled that medical evidence is only corroborative evidence and if there is inconsistency, if any, in medical evidence and ocular evidence, the ocular evidence will prevail… Trajectory of bullet by itself is not sufficient to discard the evidence of PW-2 (receptionist), whose presence at the place of incident appears to be most natural".
The incident –
On February 8, 2011, Mishra and Singh went to Dhokalia’s office and inquired about his whereabouts. The office receptionist asked them to wait and went to inform Dholakia. On returning, she saw a pistol in one of their pockets and raised an alarm. At this juncture, the deceased Yerunkar, another bodyguard and a manager came out in the reception area and saw Mishra and Singh running away. The bodyguards ran after them when one of them opened fire. Yerunkar, who was in the front, escaped the first bullet but the second bullet hit him in the chest.