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HC upholds life sentence of 4 for murdering couple

The Bombay High Court has upheld the conviction and life sentence awarded to four persons for murdering a Muslim couple during the 1992 communal riots in Mumbai, while observing that the prosecution proved its case beyond reasonable doubt.

A division bench of Acting Chief Justice V K Tahilramani and Justice A S Gadkari on October 27 dismissed the appeals filed by the four convicts – Suhas Panchal, Sanjay Mandavkar, Sunil Mandavkar and Chandan Lokhande – challenging a sessions court order of February 2011 convicting them for murder and imposing life sentence on them.

According to the prosecution, the accused, soon after the communal riots in Mumbai in December 1992, had asked Gani Shaikh and his wife Rabiya Shaikh to vacate the room he and his family were staying in at suburban Chembur or else face dire consequences.

On the night of January 11, 1993, the accused persons allegedly pelted stones at the house of the Shaikhs and dragged Rabiya out of the house and stabbed her with a sword and also attacked Gani.

While Rabiya died on the spot, Gani succumbed to his injuries in the hospital later. The couple’s four children managed to escape from the spot.

Senior counsel S R Chitnis, appearing for the accused, argued that the prosecution has not been able to prove that the accused were present at the spot at the time of the incident.

He further argued that the prosecution case relies on the evidence of the couple’s children who were eye-witness to the incident, but they have not mentioned names of the accused in their statement.

Prosecutor H J Dedhia argued that the accused were angered with the assault on one of their brothers during the 1992 riots and hence, had a grudge against the Muslim community. A fortnight before the incident, one of the accused had threatened Shaikh to vacate the house, he said.

The court, after perusing the evidence and facts of the case, dismissed the appeals and upheld the conviction.

“We are of the considered opinion that the appellants in pursuance of conspiracy have acted in concert and while exhibiting the common intention they committed the crime in question. The appellants are the perpetrators of the said crime and are guilty of the offence for which they are charged with,” the court said.

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