Observing that there was circumstantial evidence against naval officer Emile Jerome, convicted in the Neeraj Grover murder case, the Bombay high court on Wednesday said it was not inclined to grant him bail.
"We are not inclined to grant bail. There is circumstantial evidence. But we can expedite the hearing of the appeal filed by Jerome against the conviction," a division bench of Justices V M Kanade and M L Tahalayani said while hearing Jerome's bail plea.
Jerome, who was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment by a sessions court for culpable homicide, has sought to be released on bail pending hearing of his appeal against conviction.
The state government's appeals challenging the trial court order convicting him of culpable homicide not amounting to murder and his fiancee Maria Susairaj, a small-time Kannada actress, of destruction of evidence, are also pending with the court. The prosecution wants them both convicted of murder.
The trial court had on July 1 acquitted the duo of the charge of murder but convicted the naval officer of culpable homicide and Susairaj on charges of destruction of evidence and sentenced her to three years in jail. Since she had spent more time in jail as an undertrial, she was freed a few days after the verdict.
The judges also observed that the trial court had strongly relied on the retracted confession of Susairaj while convicting Jerome.
"The trial court went on a wrong footing in the beginning itself. There is enough circumstantial evidence. We might ask the trial court to reconsider the verdict," Justice Kanade said but hastened to add that the court was just thinking aloud looking at the evidence prima facie.
Senior counsel Shirish Gupte, appearing for Jerome, pinned the entire blame on Susairaj, saying, "Jerome came to Mumbai only in the afternoon of May 7. He met his fiancee Susairaj and took her for shopping. Jerome does not know what happened in her flat the previous night," Gupte said.
Gupte claimed the prosecution had no evidence to show that the deceased was alive when Jerome landed in Mumbai.
"The time of death has still not been established. Susairaj was alone with the deceased the previous night. The only material against Jerome is the retracted confession, in which the entire blame has been put on him, and the recovery of a knife at the place where the body was allegedly burnt," Gupte said.
According to the prosecution, the murder was premeditated as Susairaj felt cheated by Grover who failed to get her a role in television serials.
According to the police, Neeraj was stabbed to death by Jerome and Susairaj after the victim got into a scuffle with the naval officer on May 7, 2008. The alleged murder took place at the residence of Susairaj. The two accused had allegedly cut the body into several pieces before disposing it of at Manor jungles on the city outskirts.
The hearing will continue on Thursday.