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2006: Watershed year for Mumbai courts
Kapil Kelkar in Mumbai | December 27, 2006 11:11 IST
Last Updated: December 27, 2006 11:25 IST
2006 could be described as a watershed year for Mumbai courts as some long-running high profile trials, including 1993 serial blasts case and the Best Bakery retrial, reached culmination.
Also, there were a few landmark orders passed by the Bombay High Court, including the one that forced the municipal corporation to fill up potholes on city roads within a fortnight.
To start with, nine out of seventeen accused in the 2002 Best Bakery carnage case were convicted by special judge Abhay Thipsay in February.
The trial had been transferred to Mumbai by the Supreme Court after a court in Vadodara acquitted all the accused.
But the climax of the longest trial in Indian judicial history was reached when pronoucement of judgement in 1993 Mumbai serial blasts began in September, thirteen years after the 'black Friday' of March 1993, when 257 lives were snuffed out.
At the end, a hundred accused, including family members of absconding main accused Tiger Memon who masterminded the blasts, and Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt were found guilty by special TADA judge Pramod Kode.
Dutt was absolved of TADA charges but held guilty under the Arms act for possessing an AK 56 rifle. The quantum of punishment for the convicts will be known in January.
Changed political equations were reflected in two defamation cases.
Nationalist Congress Party leader Chhagan Bhujbal dropped a defamation case against ex-Shiv Sena leader Narayan Rane, who has joined Congress and became Bhujbal's colleague in state ministry.
Similarly, Sunil Dutt's family decided to withdraw a defamation suit filed by Dutt against Sanjay Nirupam, a former Sena man who is now with Congress.
A number of celebrities too found themselves caught up in legal wrangles, lending glamour to otherwise drab routine at the courts.
Chief among them were former BCCI chief Jagmohan Dalmiya and 'encounter specialist' police officer Daya Nayak. Dalmiya sought and obtained anticipatory bail from the High Court when BCCI filed an FIR against him for allegedly misappropriating over Rs 21 lakhs from its 1996 World Cup account.
Nayak, however, failed to get similar relief both at sessions as well as the High Court when he was booked for possessing disproportionate assets. He had to spend two months in jail before getting bail.
Trial of the hit and run case against actor Salman Khan -- for a mishap in Bandra in 2002 -- continued through the year.
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena president Raj Thackeray had to tender an apology to the High Court; he had been sued for contempt of court over his warning to lawyers not to defend the accused in July 11 serial train blasts.
PIL activism resulted in many a landmark decision by the Bombay High Court.
In January, the High Court ordered demolition of all unauthorised structures in neigbouring town of Ulhasnagar. However the state government came to citizens' rescue by bringing an ordiance regularising the constructions.
When a similar issue came before the court in the case of unauthorised constructions in Kalyan-Dombivali townships, government pre-empted an Ulhasnagar-like situation by telling the court that a similar law will be passed.
But the decision, which captured the fancy of national media, came on a PIL on condition of roads in Mumbai. A Division bench of Justices R M Lodha and S A Bobde, on August 16, asked the civic authorities to fill up all the potholes on city roads within fifteen days.
The court also took the government to task when it failed to fill up 3 percent jobs reserved for the disabled within the deadline.
The state government also faced a huge embarassment when on April 1, the High Court struck down amendment to Bombay Police Act banning dance bars, holding it unconstitutional.
Constable Sunil More, accused of raping a minor girl inside a Marine Drive police chowky, was convicted by a sessions court in a speedy trial and was sentenced to 12 years' rigorous imprisonment.
The trial of British nationals Duncan Grant and Alan Water, accused of sexually abusing children in shelter homes set up by Grant in Mumbai, too, ended with both being sentenced to six years' prison term.
In another landmark decision on a PIL, the High Court ordered private channels not to air adult films on television.
In the coming year, trial in Gateway of India blasts (twin blasts) of 2003 case is expected to be over.
Also, the trial in the Pramod Mahajan muder case -- in which his brother Pravin is the accused -- will start next year. The case got a curious turn even before the trial started as both the special prosecutor and the defence lawyer returned their briefs.