“An accused cannot be deprived of a copy of the statement of the accused turned approver” since he (accused) is entitled to a “fair trial”, observed the Bombay High Court while directing prosecution to provide a copy of the statement of an approver to gangster turned politician Arun Gawli in an alleged extortion case.
Justice P D Naik on Thursday directed the prosecution to hand over a copy of the approver's statement to Gawli observing: “It is clear that an accused has a right to use previous statements of accused including statements recorded by police during the course of the investigation for the purpose of establishing contradictions during cross examination (of the approver/witness) or for discrediting the witness.”
The HC was hearing a petition filed by Gawli seeking direction to the prosecution to provide him with a copy of the approver's previous statement which was recorded by the police during the course of the investigation.
Gawli was booked in an extortion case for allegedly demanding money from a builder in 2008. Three of his aides – Ahir, Dinesh Narkar and Sudhir Ghorpade – were arrested by the Mumbai crime branch. Later MCOCA was invoked in the Case.
The police recorded Ghorpade's statement after is arrest.
Subsequently, Ghorpade sought to be made an approver in the case, which was allowed by the special court.
Later, during the trial, the prosecution examined him as a witness where he supported the prosecution case.
Gawli sought a copy of Ghorpade's statement which was recorded by police while he was still an accused.
The special judge turned down his application in February 14, 2020 and review application on February 8, 2021, which he challenged before the HC.
Gawli's counsel contended that Ghorpade's previous statement, recorded by the while he was still an accused, should be provided as the accused deserved a fair trial. “Before the accused becomes an approver, he was an accomplice. Hence, his statement is required to be examined with utmost care. Statement given to police immediately after the arrest is vital.”
Public prosecutor Shreekant Gavande opposed the plea stating that the statement made by the accused before police is admissible as evidence before the trial court and such statement cannot be given.
Allowing Gawli's plea, HC has asked prosecution to provide him with Ghorpade's previous statement before the police.
HC has further granted liberty to Gawli, on receipt of the statements, to prefer appropriate application before trial court for recalling witness 4 (Ghorpade) for cross examination if need arises.
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