The Bombay High Court recently rejected a petition seeking furlough by Jitendra Rana, main accused in the 2011 murder of Keenan Santos and Reuben Fernandez. The court observed that “looking at the brazen act of molestation”, and all facts available, there will be danger to the life of witnesses if Rana is released on furlough as he is “most likely to take revenge if he is released”.
Keenan Santos (24) and Reuben Fernandez (29) were attacked outside a restaurant in Andheri in 2011 when they had tried to stop four men from harassing their lady friends.
Rana had challenged an order rejecting his appeal for furlough in February 2017 by filing a petition before the High Court. Rana has been sentenced to life imprisonment and is presently lodged at Nashik Road Central Jail.
“Looking at the facts of this case, we find much merit in the order of rejection and order dismissing the appeal on the ground that there would be danger to the life of witnesses. There is sufficient material available before the authorities to reach this conclusion. The act of the petitioner (Rana) shows that he is the kind of person who is most likely to take revenge if he is released on furlough. We are not inclined to grant furlough,” said Justice V K Tahilramani.
On October 20, 2011, Keenan, Reuben and five others had gone to a restaurant in Andheri. When they left the restaurant around 10.30 pm, they encountered the four men outside. Rana and another convict Satish Dulgaj passed lewd comments and touched one woman inappropriately.
After Keenan confronted them, the four men left the spot but warned that they would return and kill them. Within 10-15 minutes they returned, with Rana and Dulgaj armed with knives stolen from a coconut shop. In the ensuing fight, Keenan was stabbed multiple times in the stomach. Reuben was also attacked with the knife. Keenan succumbed to his injuries the same night. Reuben died on October 31.
“One of the grounds for rejecting the application of Rana for furlough is that there is danger to the life of the witnesses. It is seen that two of the witnesses work in or near the restaurant where the incident took place and the petitioner also resides in the same area. Moreover, the facts relating to the case in which the petitioner is involved show that the petitioner has a tendency of taking revenge which can be seen from the fact that when the deceased tried to question him regarding the teasing, he along with the other accused came back with deadly weapons and assaulted the deceased persons. In fact, on account of the assault, two persons lost their lives,” observed the court.
The counsel appearing for Rana had argued that the ground for rejecting the application based on alleged danger to the life of the complainant and witnesses and the police report, is adverse.
He pointed to a Nagpur bench order in which an accused was granted furlough based on the observation that there was no evidence to conclude that the accused would take revenge if let out on furlough.