IN a strange turn in the Kopardi gangrape and murder case, the defence lawyers on Friday sought permission from the court for examining Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis as a defence witness because of an interview on a TV channel, in which the CM had reportedly stated that the accused will be given the death penalty.
The application in this regard was filed before sessions judge Suvarna Kewale by defence lawyer Balasaheb Khopade. The lawyer claimed that witness statement of chief minister needs to be recorded as he had stated in the interview that “death penalty would be given to the accused persons.”
The court will pass an order on the application on July 7. On Thursday, defence lawyer Khopade had filed an application seeking permission for examining prosecution lawyer Ujjwal Nikam, former director of YASHADA Ravindra Chavan, government medical officer Dr. Datta Thorat, district collector Abhay Mahajan and editor of a Marathi news channel, Uday Nirgudkar, as defence witnesses. Speaking to The Indian Express, Nikam had called it a “publicity stunt”.
Advocate Khopade had also submitted a CD, which he claims to carry evidence of how the investigation in this case was done under the guidance of special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam.
It may be recalled that a 14-year-old girl studying in Class IX was allegedly gangraped and tortured to death at Kopardi village in Karjat taluka of Ahmednagar district on July 13, 2016. The incident had sparked widespread protests across Maharashtra.
According to the police, the incident took place around 6.45 pm on July 13 when the girl was returning home from her grandfather’s house, around 500 metres away. The body of the girl was spotted under a tree on July 13 night after the family started looking for her when she did not return home. Her bicycle was found abandoned near a canal.
Police had first arrested Jitendra Shinde alias Pappu (25) from Shrigonda town in Ahmednagar while the second accused, Santosh Bhawal (36), was arrested from Karjat. The third suspect, Nitin Bhailume (26), was arrested from Pune. Police said that all three suspects were contractual workers at construction sites or working for private companies. They stayed at Kopardi village.
Statements of Shinde and Bhawal have been recorded before the court. On Friday, the statement of Bhailume was recorded, in which he denied the allegations against him.