Supreme Court Relief for Pradeep Sharma: Ex-Mumbai Cop Not Required to Surrender Pending Further Orders

New Delhi/Mumbai, 8th April 2024: In a development favouring former Mumbai Police officer Pradeep Sharma, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday that he is not required to surrender pending further orders concerning the life sentence handed down to him in a 2006 case involving a fabricated encounter killing. Additionally, the apex court has requested a response from the Maharashtra government regarding Sharma’s bail petition in the same case.

Upon accepting Sharma’s appeal against the Bombay High Court’s decision on March 19, a bench comprising Justices Hrishikesh Roy and Prashant Kumar Mishra remarked, “It involves a situation where the acquittal by the high court is overturned, with the appellant filing an appeal. The statutory appeal is accepted for consideration. Notice is issued regarding the bail plea. The high court had directed surrender within three weeks. Until the next hearing, surrender is not required.”

Sharma, alongside individuals such as Daya Nayak, Vijay Salaskar, and Ravindra Angre, formed part of a notorious Mumbai police squad that confronted the city’s underworld during the 1990s and 2000s, allegedly eliminating numerous suspected criminals. He has contested the Bombay High Court’s decision sentencing him to life imprisonment for the 2006 fake encounter killing of Ramnarayan Gupta, an alleged associate of gangster Chhota Rajan.

Represented by senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi and advocate Subhash Jadhav, Sharma argued that the incident occurred nearly two decades ago and that he was not present at the scene of the crime. They asserted that only his firearm was utilized.

Senior advocate Yug Chaudhry, representing complainant Ramprasad Gupta, the deceased’s brother, opposed Sharma’s bail plea, citing his status as a repeat offender and previous convictions related to fake encounters, along with allegations of witness tampering.

Chaudhry mentioned that Sharma had been granted bail in the Antilia bomb scare case, wherein an explosives-laden vehicle was discovered near industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s residence ‘Antilia’ in south Mumbai.

Rohatgi countered, stating that Sharma’s conviction in the case was based solely on a bullet recovered from the deceased’s body, allegedly fired from Sharma’s service revolver.

The bench clarified that it was currently only issuing notices e regarding the bail plea. It acknowledged the high court’s verdict as “well-constructed” and commended the judges’ efforts.

The bench announced that Sharma’s bail plea would be heard in four weeks.

On March 19, the high court upheld the convictions and life sentences of 13 other defendants, including 12 former police officers and a civilian, in the case.

It emphasized that law enforcers cannot be allowed to act as criminals while in uniform, stressing that such conduct would lead to chaos.

The court concluded that the prosecution had proven beyond doubt the abduction, wrongful confinement, and killing of Gupta in a staged encounter with credible evidence.

However, it nullified the 2013 sessions court ruling acquitting Sharma, describing it as “perverse and unsustainable.”

The high court found Sharma guilty on all counts, including criminal conspiracy, murder, kidnapping, and wrongful confinement, sentencing him to life imprisonment. It ordered him to surrender to the relevant sessions court within three weeks.

Sharma is also implicated in the killing of businessman Mansukh Hiren, to whom the vehicle used in the Antilia bomb scare case was linked. Hiren had reported the vehicle as stolen days before the incident. His body was discovered in a creek off a Mumbai suburb several days later.

On November 11, 2006, a police team detained Ramnarayan Gupta, also known as Lakkhan Bhaiya and his friend Anil Bheda from the Vashi area in Navi Mumbai. Gupta was subsequently killed in a staged encounter near Versova in western Mumbai the same evening.

Anil Bheda, Gupta’s associate, was released from custody in December 2006. However, he was allegedly abducted and killed in July 2011, shortly before he was due to testify in court. The state CID is investigating the matter.

Regarding Bheda’s case, the high court noted that the CID had yet to conclude its investigation or identify the perpetrators.

Initially, 22 individuals, including 13 police officers, were charged in the Ramnarayan Gupta fake encounter case. After a trial, the sessions court convicted 21 of the accused in 2013, sentencing them to life imprisonment. Two of the convicted individuals died while in custody.

The convicted parties appealed the verdict in the high court, while Ramprasad Gupta appealed against Sharma’s acquittal.