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2006: When the high and mighty fell
Dharmender Tyagi and Sanjeev Kumar in New Delhi
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December 28, 2006 12:10 IST
The perception that the mighty can get away from the clutches of law did not hold much water in 2006 as justice caught up with many of  them including Jharkhand Mukti Morcha chief Shibu Soren, underworld Don Babloo Srivastava and a retired police official R P Tyagi who were held guilty of heinous crimes.

Causing major political embarassment for the United Progressive Alliance government, Soren got the dubious distinction of being first ever cabinet minister to get sentenced to life imprisonment for plotting abduction and murder of his private secretary Shashi Nath Jha who had the knowledge of bribe received by the tribal leader for saving then minority P V Narasimha Rao government.

The plea that he was an old and ailing man who pioneered the movement for the creation of separate state of Jharkhand did not get Soren any reprieve as the court ordered his arrest forthwith.

Barely a fortnight after Soren's conviction, a retired ACP R P Tyagi had to pay the price for exercising high-handedness 19 years ago when he was convicted and awarded capital punishment for torturing to death two persons in custody. If these two convictions of public servants affirmed citizens' faith in judiciary, a decision by the trial court to award life imprisonment to underworld don Babloo Srivastava in a murder case proved that no one was beyond the reach of law.

Srivastava, who was cooling his heels in Bareily prison after his extradition from Singapore in 1995, was punished along with Mumabi-based businessman Nitin Shah for eliminating an east Delhi businessman Lalit Suneja in 1992. The court, in its verdict, refused to show leniency to them as no eyewitness,  including the wife of deceased Suneja, dared to support the prosecution story during the trial.

However, the end of the year brought yet another conviction and life sentence in the Congress Councillor Atma Ram Gupta murder case. Sharda Jain, herself a corporator when the crime took place, was held guilty as the prosecution proved that she hatched a conspiracy to eliminate her mentor Gupta.

Among the politicians was the former Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala, who failed to get any relief in a corruption case of allegedly amassing over Rs 1400 crore as the court refused to defreeze his firms' bank accounts. The accounts were frozen following CBI raids at 24 premises belonging to him and his family spread across five states and Chandigarh. However, it was the Rahul Mahajan drug abuse case which captured major media attention in which the son of slain Bharatiya Janata Party leader Pramod Mahajan had to spent many nights in Tihar jail before he was released on bail.

The case also exposed the alleged complicity of Apollo hospital and its doctors who tried to tamper with the evidence and misled the investigation of the offence, which was committed at the 7-Safdarjung Road residence, that had been allotted to the slain leader for several years. While the nation was witnessing terror crime strikes, a Delhi Court in September issued a warrant of execution of death sentence of Mohammad Afzal, main conspirator in Parliament attack case, whose capital punishment was confirmed by both the Delhi high court and the Supreme Court. Heated national debate commenced over Afzal as soon as the warrant was released and political parties gave diverse views on the issue.

The death sentence scheduled for October 20 could not be carried out as his family members filed a clemency petition before President A P J Abdul Kalam and later a curative petition was filed before the Supreme Court for review of his conviction.

The year saw a sensational acquittal of Manu Sharma, son of senior Congress leader Venod Sharma, and eight others in the seven-year-old Jessica Lall murder case by a trial court. A huge public outcry was raised prompting Delhi police to file an appeal within a fortnight of the verdict. As the year came to an end, the Delhi high court overturned the acquittal of Manu and sentenced him to life imprisonment.

In the midst of extensive media coverage, the trial in the Nitish Katara murder case got a boost as the elusive key witness and sister of main accused Vikas and Vishal Yadav, Bharati Yadav finally appeared and recorded her testimony admitting her friendly relations with the victim but denied any love affair with him.

In stark contrast, the family of cartoonist Irfan Ahmed was a disheartened lot when the court acquitted all the five accused of the charge of murder. The Uphaar fire tragedy case, in which 59 people had lost their lives, has reached its penultimate stage as the court started the final arguments.

A surprise was in store when a trial court framed charges against 39 persons in almost forgotten transistor bomb case, which had rocked the national capital in 1985 claiming 59 lives in serial blasts.

The court began recording evidence in the case. The main accused Kartar Singh Narang is no more and others are out on bail. The trial in the multi-crore stamp paper cases involving the kingpin Abdul Karim Telgi also drew much media attention as the proceedings took a new pace through video conferencing and the accused, who is lodged in Yerrawada jail in Pune, witnessing the proceedings and even cross-examining the prosecution witnesses.

The multi-thousand crore Group Housing Society scam also hogged the limelight as several dozen FIRs were filed in different CBI courts.

The coming into force of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence (Prevention) Act this year also attracted a number of cases having been filed by aggrieved women seeking redress.

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