After the special CBI court acquitted extradited gangster Chhota Rajan in the murder case of John Pereira, a fisherman and an alleged smuggler, on June 26, the 35-year-old murder case remains unsolved.
The trial in the case was held in two phases, both resulting in acquittals of the accused. The special public prosecutor feels the decision in the case does not stand a chance of being reversed in an appeal too, because there is insufficient evidence. Pereira was stabbed to death on February 21, 1983, and the police had then claimed that he was killed because of a rivalry over smuggling activities in Juhu.
Among the accused was Rajan Nair, alias Bada Rajan. While the accused were arrested, Rajan was later released on bail and declared an absconding accused as he did not appear in court during the trial.
Subsequently, in 1996, five other accused were acquitted in the case. Special CBI Public Prosecutor Pradeep Gharat said that at that time, only four to five witnesses had been examined and except for two policemen among them, the others were declared hostile.
Gharat said Helen, Pereira’s daughter, who was then nine years old, had accompanied her father on a morning walk at Juhu beach with her two-year-old brother.
The child saw a group of men attacking her father and stabbing him multiple times, while she hid behind a balloon stall with her brother. During the first trial against the accused, Sebestin, alias Bastav Joseph Creado, Shrikant, alias Shree Nanu Desai, Vilas Deshmukh, Robert Creado and Rajan Nair, the Mumbai Police had informed the court that they could not trace the girl.
A defense lawyer said that a witness who deposed in the first trial refused to identify the accused because he said that after stabbing Pereira, they started running without turning back and so, he could not see their faces.
The second trial against Rajan and another accused, Ganesh Singh Bisht, was held after Rajan’s deportation from Indonesia in 2015.
During the second leg of the trial, among the six witnesses examined by Gharat, were eyewitnesses, including Pareira’s daughter Helen. While deposing in court, Helen, now 44 years old, had said she did not remember who the attackers were. She was declared hostile for not supporting the prosecution.
Another witness, a horse-cart puller, also told the court that he could not remember who the alleged murderers were.
The prosecution examined six witnesses, including panch witnesses present at the time of recovery and seizure of weapons used in the crime. Gharat said since Chhota Rajan was deported to India, all his cases were investigated by the CBI.
But in this case, the CBI did not investigate further, it just adopted the investigation carried by the Mumbai police. The offence was registered at the Santacruz police station.
Gharat said they will not appeal against the judgment because they have no evidence in the case that can be appreciated by the appeal court.
In the second trial of the case, advocates Anshuman Sinha and Hasnain Kazi, who represented Rajan and advocate Prakash Shetty, who represented Bisht, had submitted that the witnesses could not be relied upon, as all had said they could not remember the events, which took place 35 years ago.
Due to passage of time, “muddemal” including clothes and weapons connected to the offence, were also destroyed, Gharat said. Many witnesses, too, either remained untraceable or have passed away.
The special CBI court judge Sameer S Adkar, while acquitting Rajan and Bisht said: “… it is clear that the witnesses examined on behalf of the prosecution have not supported the case of the prosecution. Therefore, there is no evidence on the record to show the involvement…”