Artist Chintan Upadhyay facing trial for the murder of his estranged wife Hema Upadhyay and her lawyer Harish Bhambani in 2015, has approached the apex court through a Special Leave Petition (SLP) against the rejection of his bail plea by the Bombay HC last year and has said that the trial court has completely failed to follow the top court’s direction of 2019 to expedite the trial and that the HC erred in overlooking this.
He said the state had in its affidavit before the SC in his earlier challenge to another bail plea that the HC had rejected in 2018, stated that it would conclude the trial within nine months. The SC had ordered on 14 February 2019 that the trial be conducted expeditiously, while rejecting his bail plea.
He said in his petition filed on 6 March, that in view of the directions, the trial should have concluded by 14 November 2019. “It appears from the perusal of the record and proceedings before the trial court that the trial may not conclude within the next three to four years,” his petition read. It mentioned that the trial was adjourned seven times as the judge was not present, 17 times as the prosecutor was absent, three times as the prosecutor’s sought for it and 26 times as the accused were not produced from jail. His own advocate remained absent only on two dates, he said.
“As of now the prosecution has examined only 11 of the 48 witnesses proposed by it,” he pointed out. He said he is seeking relief mainly on the basis that the trial court has not complied with the top court’s order. The Bombay HC, he said, completely overlooked these facts while rejecting his bail plea and that it misdirected itself while relying on the prosecution’s submission that the trial was delayed due to Covid and because the accused could not be produced on a few occasions.
His petition said that the application before the SC by Bhambani’s daughter to extend time for trial was dismissed and hence that the HC has erred in extending time for trial till 30 April 2021.
The artist said he has the right to an expeditious trial and that one co-accused Vidydhar Rajbhar is still absconding and that it does not appear the prosecution is making serious efforts to arrest him. Chintan also relied on a March order of the SC wherein it had granted bail to an accused on the grounds that he is languishing in jail since 2012 and that there is no likelihood of the trial being completed.
Advocate Kadar Sayani who is assisting the prosecutor in the trial court in the case on behalf of Borivali Advocates Bar Association said that Chintan is taking advantage of the pandemic and if bail is granted to him, it will be an injustice to all practising advocates and their families.
Chintan and four others are facing trial for the double murder.