Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Monday asked
the Mumbai Police Commissioner D Sivanandan to remain present
on May 3 to personally explain the failure of police to trace
an absconding convict who is facing a life sentence for the
murder of veteran trade union leader Datta Samant.
Granting further time to police to trace Vijay Thopte, a
runaway convict, Justice B H Marlapalle and Justice A Sayed
asked the Police Commissioner to take immediate steps to catch
him and explain the status of the case on the next occasion.
Thopte had jumped parole in February 2005 and is
untraceable since then.
Public prosecutor Pradeep Hingorani informed the court
that in keeping with the directives of the judges, a Deputy
Commissioner of Police, Mumbai, was present but the court
insisted that the Police Commissioner should himself explain
what steps had been taken to nab the absconding convict.
The prosecutor submitted that since the convict was not
traceable his case should be separated from the rest of the
convicts whose appeals are being heard.
However, the court said it would not decide such plea now
and opined that police must make efforts to locate Thopte.
On April 6, the prosecutor had informed the court that
special investigating teams had put in their best efforts to
trace Thopte but did not succeed.
The court was hearing appeals filed by Thopte and another
convict Ganpat Bamne challenging the sentence awarded to them
by a sessions court in 2000.
On July 25, 2000, the trial court sentenced Thopte, Bamne
and Arun Londhe to life sentence for killing Samant, union
leader and former MP, on January 16, 1997 at Powai in Mumbai.
Londe died in jail.
Bamne`s counsel Sayaji Nangre had asked the court to
separate Bamne`s appeal from that of Thopte. He said Bamne had
been in prison since his arrest on February 20, 1997. If
Thopte was not found then Bamne would continue to languish in
jail without his appeal being heard, Nangre submitted.
However, the judges observed that it would not be wise to
separate the appeals of Bamne and Thopte, considering that the
trial court had examined 73 witnesses and there was a bulk of
documents to be taken into account.