Alleged henchman of Chhota Rajan gang Vikram Sapte, charged with murder of veteran trade union leader Dr Datta Samant, was acquitted by a sessions court in Mumbai as prosecution failed to prove the charges against him. The court acquitted Sapte on Friday as four witnesses failed to identify him during the trial, his lawyer SandeepSingh told PTI.
The court observed that it was giving Sapte the benefit of doubt as the prosecution had not been able to prove its case against the accused. On January 16, 1997, four alleged shooters of Chotta Rajan gang had pumped 18 bullets into Samant, leader of Kamgar Aghadi union, as he was leaving his residence in a jeep on Padmavati Road in Powai, northeast Mumbai.
The motive of the murder was inter-union rivalry at the PAL-Peugeot plant in Dombivali. Samant's murder had created ripples in trade union sector and with no strong leader in the fray, the trade unions lost their hold in the industry. Samant was also elected member of Parliament as an independent candidate in 1984.
Samant's driver, Bhimrao Sonkambli, also could not identify Sapte in the court. He said in his deposition that he too was injured in the attack and hence could not see the witnesses. In 1997, police arrested three Rajan gang members, Arun Londhe,Vijay Thopate and Ganpat Bamne. They were found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2000. During interrogation it was learnt that Sapte was also assailant in the case.
Sapte was arrested from Silvassa in May 2005 along with his associate Vijay Choudhary. Choudhary got bail later
and was killed in a police encounter. Sapte, however, was denied bail and has been in jail since his arrest.