Encounter case: Accused cop hops out of court in session for a ‘little shopping’

While sessions court Judge V D Jadhavar was recording statements of the accused in the alleged Lakhan Bhaiyya fake encounter case involving arrested encounter specialist Pradeep Sharma and several other policemen on Monday, a suspended constable slipped out of the court, walked into a nearby shopping centre along with the police escort meant to guard him, spent nearly 20 minutes shopping, and walked back to the court.

This happened without the court's permission while it was still in session. The accused, Devidas Sakpal, who is facing murder charges, has been attending court hearings on a daily basis.

As the court continued to be in session, Sakpal walked out with constable Santosh Bhosale, attached to the Mumbai Police's Local Arms wing, and entered the shopping centre around 4.30 pm. Before stepping into the shopping center, Bhosale handed over his rifle to another constable who then stood vigil outside the entrance.

Sakpal was seen shopping for eatables in the gourmet section of a leading retail chain, before picking up a few T-shirts from the men's apparel section. He also made the payments with cash stacked in his wallet, which accused are not allowed to carry without proper court permission.

According to a source from the court, no such permission was granted to any accused by the judge. "No application was made before the court to either go to a shopping mall or carry money," said a senior legal officer.

According to the prosecution, Sakpal was one of the seven constables in a police team that killed fugitive gangster Chhota Rajan's alleged aide Ramnarayan Gupta alias Lakhan Bhaiya on November 11, 2006. Gupta had 19 cases registered against him, of which 12 were related to murders.

Although the incident dates back to 2006, a case was registered only in 2008 following a Bombay High Court order for magisterial inquiry into the encounter. In August 2009, the magistrate submitted a report which said Lakhan Bhaiyya had, in fact, been murdered in cold blood. The HC later formed a Special Investigation Team which arrested Sharma and other police officers.

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