THE MAHARASHTRA home department issued an order Wednesday suspending for six months the life sentence of 11 policemen convicted by the sessions court in 2013 for the fake encounter of suspected Chhota Rajan aide Ramnarayan Gupta alias Lakhan Bhaiyya. Under the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973, the state government has the power to suspend the sentence of a convict if the latter fulfills certain criteria. After six months, the behaviour of the 11 men currently lodged in the Thane prison will be reviewed again to see if the sentence can be suspended further.
In July 2013, a sessions court awarded life sentence to 21 men, including 13 police personnel, for killing Lakhan Bhaiyya in 2006. Pradeep Sharma, the ‘encounter specialist’, had been acquitted by the court in the case.
As per the home department order dated December 2, the 11 policemen had submitted an application to the state government urging it to suspend their sentence. “After consultation with the court, Mumbai police commissioner, Inspector General (IG) prisons, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and Mumbai collector, it was decided to suspend their prison sentence by six months,” the circular read.
The 11 policemen are Dilip Palande, Nitin Sartape, Ganesh Harpude, Anand Patade, Prakash Kadam, Devidas Sakpal, Pandurang Kokam, Ratnakar Kamble, Sandeep Sardar, Tanaji Desai, Vinayak Shinde. Additional Chief Secretary (Home) K P Bakshi said the policemen had made the application before the state following which a decision was taken. “It does not mean they have been given a blanket extension. After six months, a review will be conducted again to see if the suspension of their sentence can be continued,” Bakshi told The Indian Express.
Ramprasad Gupta, Lakhan Bhaiyya’s brother, said he was currently out of Mumbai and would decide the future course of action after going through the order.
An officer from the home department said the 11 men did not have any major role in the crime. They have familial responsibilities like education of their children for which the leave granted under parole and furlough is not enough.
“Since everyone from the prison officials, to the police commissioner to the human rights commission, did not have any problem with their sentence being suspended, a favourable order was taken,” said the officer.
There were certain conditions that the 11 men are expected to follow as per the order. They cannot meet witnesses in the case and Gupta’s family members, will behave well and not commit any crime during the six-month period, and will also have to surrender their passports and personal weapons at the police station. If they want to convert or change their names during the six-month period, prior permission of the government will be required. The government will have the powers to lift the six-month stay without informing the convicts.
“Similarly, if the High Court upholds the Sessions court verdict against them, the six-month stay will be lifted. Also, the government can cancel the stay if the convicts violate any of the conditions,” added the circular.