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SC grants bail to ex-cop Pradeep Sharma in 2006 fake encounter case

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New Delhi, May 11(PTI) The Supreme Court has granted bail to former Mumbai Police officer Pradeep Sharma, awarded life sentence in the 2006 fake encounter killing case of gangster Ramnarayan Gupta alias Lakkhan Bhaiya..

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A bench of Justices Hrishikesh Roy and Prashant Kumar Mishra noted the submission of the lawyer for the Maharashtra government that the state had no objection to the court granting bail to Sharma.

Senior advocates Mukul Rohatgi and Sidharth Luthra appeared for Sharma, while senior advocate R Basant represented the complainant and opposed the former officer's bail application.

The top court had earlier on April 8 said he need not surrender till further orders to undergo the life sentence awarded to him in the case.

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While admitting Sharma's appeal against the March 19 Bombay High Court verdict, the bench had said, "It is a case of reversal of acquittal by the high court, where the appeal is filed by the appellant. The statutory appeal is admitted for hearing. Issue notice on bail plea. The high court has directed him for surrender in three weeks. Till the next date of hearing, he need not surrender." Sharma, who along with the likes of Daya Nayak, Vijay Salaskar and Ravindra Angre was part of a dreaded squad of Mumbai police that took on the city's underworld in the 1990s and 2000s and killed scores of alleged criminals, has challenged the Bombay High Court order which sentenced him to life imprisonment in the fake encounter killing of Ramnarayan Gupta, an alleged close aide of gangster Chhota Rajan.

On March 19, the high court had upheld the conviction and life sentence imposed on 13 other accused-12 former policemen and a civilian.

It said the "protectors/guardians of law cannot be permitted to act as criminals in uniform and if this is permitted then it would lead to anarchy".

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The court noted that the prosecution has proved beyond reasonable doubt the abduction, wrongful confinement and killing of Gupta in a fake encounter with "credible, cogent and legally admissible evidence".

It, however, quashed the 2013 judgement passed by a sessions court acquitting Sharma due to the lack of evidence and termed it "perverse and unsustainable".

The high court had convicted Sharma of all charges, including criminal conspiracy, murder, kidnapping and wrongful confinement, and sentenced him to life imprisonment.

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Sharma is also an accused in the of killing of businessman Mansukh Hiren to whom the SUV used in the Antilia bomb scare case was traced. Hiren had, however, reported to police that the vehicle had been stolen days before the incident. His body was found floating in a creek off a Mumbai suburb a few days after the incident.

On November 11, 2006, a police team picked up Ramnarayan Gupta alias Lakkhan Bhaiya from Vashi in Navi Mumbai along with his friend Anil Bheda, and killed him in a staged encounter near Versova in western Mumbai the same evening.

Gupta's associate Anil Bheda was released from custody in December 2006.

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However, in July 2011, a few days before he was scheduled to depose in court, Bheda was also allegedly abducted and killed. The state CID is probing the case.

Taking note of Bheda's case, the high court had said till date, the CID has not taken any steps to conclude the investigation and trace the perpetrators.

Twenty-two individuals, including 13 policemen, were initially charged in the Ramnarayan Gupta fake encounter killing case.

Following a trial, the sessions court in 2013 found 21 of the accused guilty and sentenced them to life imprisonment. Two of the convicted individuals died while in custody.

Those convicted filed appeals in the high court, while Gupta's brother Ramprasad appealed against Sharma's acquittal. PTI PKS SK SK

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