Industrialist Nusli Wadia Monday appeared before a sessions court in Mumbai in connection with a 25-year-old case in which the chairman of Bombay Dyeing and Britannia has accused certain Reliance Industries employees of hatching a conspiracy to kill him.
Wadia, rarely seen in public, was in court to depose before the court but did not get a chance to do so as the court adjourned the hearing of the case to September 2. Special Judge H S Mahajan said the court would first fix the schedule for hearing the case on September 2, after which Wadia would be allowed to depose before the trial court.
Mahesh Jethmalani, senior counsel representing Wadia, sought a fresh date for the hearing as the case has now been assigned to a new special public prosecutor. Former prosecutor Kiran Makasare, however, said the case was handed over to special public prosecutor Kavita Patil only on Monday morning. “The move was sudden and I handed over the documents to the SPP in the morning,” said Makasare. Kirti Ambani, a senior executive of Reliance Industries who is an accused in the case, was also present in court Monday.
In 2003, a sessions judge had charged Kirti Ambani, Arjun Babaria, Ivan Sequeira and Ramesh Jagothia with hatching a criminal conspiracy in 1988-89 to eliminate Nusli Wadia.
According to the prosecution, in mid-1989, Kirti Ambani allegedly hired one Babaria to murder Wadia. Babaria had in turn allegedly appointed Sequeira to execute the plan. Senior officials of the Mumbai Crime Branch, however, got wind of the conspiracy. The police then swung into action and arrested Babaria, who ran a music band called Prince Babaria.
During investigation, the police claimed that they found several photographs of Ambani with Babaria and pictures of Wadia and his car. To establish the conspiracy, the police had also played in court recordings of conversations between Babaria and Ambani and that between Babaria and Sequeira.
Sequeira Monday filed an application in court seeking protection for himself. “I have evidence against two Reliance officials who have threatened me, which is why I filed for protection,” he said in court.
The court has directed the investigating officer of the case to look into Sequeira’s allegations. Speaking to The Indian Express, an RIL spokesperson however said, “Names of our official and legal advisor have been wrongly and falsely dragged into the controversy by one of the persons accused in the said proceedings. The allegations are without any basis and immediately denied. The motives behind such ridiculous, false and unjustified allegations are obvious.”
Earlier, Wadia had sought the court’s permission to record his statement in the case. In his application, he had said he wanted to depose on the circumstances of the corporate rivalry at the time of the incident, which might have led to the conspiracy.
Last year, Kirti Ambani moved the Bombay High Court urging it to restrain Wadia from deposing before the trial court. The High Court, however, ruled that the evidence of Nusli Wadia was essential. The special court, rejecting Ambani’s plea to conduct in-camera deposition, directed that the business rivalry aspect in Wadia’s statement could not be reported.