By Prarthana Mitra
Seven years after a tabloid journalist Jyotirmoy Dey was shot to death by motorcycle-borne gunmen a special court on Wednesday convicted the nine accused, including gangster Rajendra Nikhalje who is also known as Chhota Rajan.
Others convicted include shooters Satish Kaliya, Anil Waghmode, Arun Dake and Mangesh Agavane. The verdict issued in Mumbai sentenced Rajan and his accomplices to life imprisonment, along with fines of Rs 26 lakh. The court acquitted fellow journalists Jigna Vora and Paulson Joseph Palitara on grounds of lack of evidence.
Here’s what happened
Dey, 56-year old crime and investigations editor of Mumbai-based tabloid MidDay was shot to death while he was on his way back to his house in Powai.
Dey’s murder was initially investigated by the Mumbai Police who arrested eleven suspects, claiming contract killers had participated in the organised murder, at the behest of underworld don Rajan. In 2015, the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act’s (MCOCA) special court took over the trial following CBI’s investigation. Since then the prosecution has interrogated about 155 witnesses of which seven to eight witnesses turned hostile.
With the help of CCTV footage from the location of the crime, the bikes used in the crime were seized and matched in court. The clinching piece of evidence, however, was Rajan’s extra-judicial confession to Dey’s colleague and fellow journalist Jigna Vora and confessions of the others accused including Arun Dake . and Deepak Shisodia. Call data records also revealed trips to Nainital for procuring the arms along with detailed plans to stalk Dey prior to the murder.
On Wednesday, the special bench led by Sameer Adkar held Chhota Rajan guilty of conspiracy to murder sentencing him to life, thus bringing the historic case to a close.
Who is Chhota Rajan?
Rajan is currently serving 7 years for a fraudulent passport case in Tihar Jail and has at least 70 other cases pending against him. He was arrested and deported from Indonesia in 2015, after which CBI took over the case and corroborated in its charge sheet that Rajan had indeed signed off on Dey’s death warrant.
In January, however, while his statement was being recorded in the case, Rajan denied all charges levelled against him. “It is false (to say) that I killed Dey,” Rajan was quoted as saying by PTI, although evidence from telephonic conversation clearly suggested his involvement in the crime. At the time, Rajan said fugitive Dawood Ibrahim, the police and politicians were colluding to frame him.
Special public prosecutor Pradeep Gharat told the court the conspiracy for this murder began a month before the crime was committed. “Rajan was of the view that J Dey could have turned fatal to him since he thought that Dey was close with his rival Dawood Ibrahim,” added Gharat. “A book written by Dey had portrayed Rajan to be comparatively weaker and that he has escaped death several numbers of time, whereas it was not so with Dawood. This instigated Rajan to eliminate Dey.”
Why you should care
Around the time of his untimely death, Dey was writing articles and books on organised crime in Maharashtra, which showcased Rajan in poor light, calling him ‘Chindi Rag to riches’. According to the prosecution, this may have been the motive behind the cold-blooded murder that fanned mass outrage across the nation in 2011.
Gharat pleaded to the special bench that the accused should not be shown leniency since the attack on the journalist was an attack on the fourth pillar of democracy. He added that heinous crimes such as this leave journalists unable to do their jobs, and are a huge blow to the freedom of the press.
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