A Mumbai court has acquitted dismissed police officer Pradeep Sharma of all the charges in the 2006 alleged fake encounter case of Ram Narayan Gupta, a suspected aide of gangster Chhota Rajan.
However, another senior cop and accused Pradeep Suryawanshi who was leading the encounter team was convicted for murder. Twenty others, including 13 policemen, were also convicted for various charges by Sessions Judge V D Jadhwar.
The sentence is likely to be pronounced on Monday.
As per prosecution, on November 11, 2006, a police team had picked up Ram Narayan Gupta alias Lakkhan Bhaiya from Vashi in neighbouring Navi Mumbai on suspicion that he was a member of the Chotta Rajan gang, along with Anil Bheda.
Same day, Lakkhan Bhaiya was killed in an encounter near Nana Nani Park in suburban Versova in Western Mumbai.
It was also alleged that Bheda was initially detained at D N Nagar police station in Versova and was later shifted to Kolhapur. He was subsequently brought back to Mumbai and was detained for about a month.
On November 15 the same year, Lakhan Bhaiyya's brother advocate Ramprasad Gupta move the Bombay high court alleging that the encounter was "fake" and it a was a case of "brutal murder".
Two years on in February 2008, the high court ordered a magisterial enquiry into the fake encounter. While the magistrate in a report concluded that the killing was a "cold-blooded" murder, the Bombay HC in September 2009 constituted a Special Investigation Team and directed them to probe the case.
'Encounter' specialist Sharma, the key accused in the case, was arrested by SIT on January 8, 2010, along with 21 others for their involvement in the encounter. All the accused were lodged in Thane Central jail.
In March 2011, the sole eyewitness in the case, Bheda went missing. He went missing from his residence in Navi Mumbai since March 13. He had to depose in court on March 18.
His wife moved the Bombay high court with a Habeas Corpus (produce the person) petition. She alleged that her husband was abducted and could have been done to death.
Two months after in June 2011, Navi Mumbai police found a decomposed body and DNA tests confirmed that it was Bheda.