More than a year and a half after gangster Ravi Pujari was extradited to India, the Mumbai Police is yet to get his custody from its counterpart in Karnataka.
The latest impediment for the Mumbai Police crime branch has been a petition filed by Pujari before the Karnataka High Court seeking that he be transferred to Mumbai and Kerala police custody only after the trials in the major cases against him in Karnataka are complete. The Mumbai Police is likely to oppose this before the Karnataka HC during the next hearing in the matter.
A senior crime branch officer said, “Pujari has approached the Bengaluru bench of the Karnataka High Court seeking that the Mumbai or Kerala police should not be given his custody till the time the trials against him are underway in Karnataka.”
Pujari’s lawyer Dilraj Sequeira told The Sunday Express, “We had filed the application earlier this year, however, due to Covid-19 it was listed last month. Currently, trials against the main cases registered against Pujari are underway and witnesses have to identify him in court. We want the trial to be carried out expeditiously in the main cases after which he can be handed over to the custody of other state police forces.” Sequeira added the court heard the matter and has asked for the response of the other parties involved.
A Mumbai Police crime branch officer said till the time the court issues an order they cannot take the gangster’s custody. According to Sequeira, Pujari faces 107 cases in Karnataka. While the CBI extradited Pujari in connection with one case, they will have to coordinate with authorities in Senegal, from where Pujari was arrested via Interpol, to obtain permission to try him in other cases, a Mumbai police officer said. In Mumbai, Pujari has been named as an accused in at least 49 cases. Of these, nearly 26 are under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) and a red-corner notice had been issued against him in at least 11 cases. The Mumbai Police has decided to charge him only in 19 cases after the CBI took over the probe in some of the cases where gangster Sadashiv Nikalje alias Chhota Rajan — deported to India from Indonesia in 2015 — was also named as accused. Pujari was earlier a part of the Rajan gang before he split and formed his own gang.
The charges against Pujari range from murder to extortion. Some of these cases involve the 1995 murder of builder Om Prakash Kukreja and extortion calls to Bollywood celebrities. Pujari was extradited from the West African nation where he was staying under a different name. He was extradited to India in February 2019, after which the Karnataka police secured his custody.
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