`Lakkhan Bhaiya` encounter case: Prosecution seeks death for 14 policemen
Mumbai: The prosecution on Monday sought death penalty for 14 policemen and two others, convicted in the case related to the fake encounter killing of Ram Narayan Gupta alias Lakkhan Bhaiya, an alleged aide of fugitive gangster Chhota Rajan.
On Friday, Mumbai sessions court convicted 21 persons, including 14 policemen, but acquitted the former `encounter specialist` police officer Pradeep Sharma.
"Lakhan was unprotected, and in their (police`s) custody," special prosecutor Vidya Kasle said, seeking the capital punishment for the policemen, including former senior inspector Pradeep Suryavanshi, who had led the encounter team.
The Supreme Court had held in previous cases that where death is caused by police officers, be it a case of custodial death or encounter, harsher view has to be taken. The present case was a cold-blooded murder, and Gupta was picked up by the police only to be shot, she said.
Advocate Kasle also demanded capital punishment for two accused who were not policemen - Shalendra Pandey and Akhil Khan - arguing that they had played an active role in killing.
The defence lawyers said that death punishment should not be given, keeping in mind the families of the accused. "For a murder, why should there be murder of 16 families", argued advocate GJ Banushali.
Defence also argued that convictions were based only on circumstantial evidence, so capital punishment should be avoided. Further, they said that Gupta was a gangster, had been charged with offences such as dacoity and murder, and the character of the murdered person was a relevant fact.
Arguing for Tanaji Desai, one of the policemen, Bhanushali argued that he was merely a constable. Further, Desai had been issued 30 rounds, and he had returned all the rounds, so there was no evidence to show that he shot the victim, the lawyer said.
Similarly, another convicted constable, Pandurang Kokam, was only present at the crime spot, he argued.
Defense lawyer Sudeep Passbola argued that this was not "rarest of the rare" case, and custodial death is not uncommon.
Passbola also argued that motive in this case was unclear, and there was no allegation that anybody had paid money for the killing.
The arguments on sentencing will continue tomorrow.
As per the prosecution, on November 11, 2006, police picked up Ram Narayan Gupta and his friend Anil Bheda from neighbouring Vashi and killed Gupta in a fake encounter in suburban Versova in Western Mumbai on the same evening.
The High Court had ordered probe by special investigation team after magisterial inquiry concluded that it was a fake encounter.
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