Pune Mirror: Pune: Wednesday, March 08, 2017.
Just over three years after two city-based tree activists were convicted for vandalism at the corporation office and attacking a senior civic body official, a serious anomaly in the charges filed against them has been pointed out by the sessions court, majorly embarrassing Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and Deccan Gymkhana police.
On Saturday, sessions Judge Dilip Murumkar quashed the conviction order by the trial court, remanding the case for a retrial and asking the prosecution to record additional evidences a unique case in the history of city courts.
It was brought forth by Judge Murumkar that Deccan police registered two different FIRs with two different dates for the same criminal case, filed against both the accused. It was also revealed that details in both copies were over-written at a number of places and did not match, while spaces between lines were used to make additions to the complainants’ statements.
In a judgment on December 11, 2013, magistrate Amitsinh Mohane had sentenced tree activists Vinod Raichand Jain (45) and Deepak Balkrishn Vahikar (61) to two years’ rigorous imprisonment, for throwing a paperweight at the PMC chief garden superintendent, Ashok Ghorpade, as well as breaking a glass door at the garden department office at Sambhaji Park on JM Road. The incident allegedly took place on February 17, 2010, when Ghorpade, Jain and Vahikar had an argument over procuring date under the Right to Information (RTI) Act regarding the felling of some trees. The magistrate had found both accused guilty under sections 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 506 (criminal intimidation), 425 (damaging public property), and other relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). A fine of Rs 10,000 was also slapped on the duo, for allegedly attacking Ghorpade with a paperweight, threatening him, and throwing office equipment around.
Both activists had later filed an appeal in the sessions court, which gave a status quo order against the trial court’s earlier ruling by allowing an appeal. While hearing the appeal, Judge Murumkar also asked the prosecution to expedite the trial by getting FIRs exhibited on behalf of the accused. It instructed that additional evidences be recorded in accordance with the law.
Advocate Harshad Mandke, representing both the activists, said, “We submitted additional evidences against the two FIRs, of which we procured certified copies under RTI. The first one is dated February 17 and the other February 18, both in 2010. The timings of lodging the complaints were different on both, and there was over-writing on the date and time of the alleged incident. Details like ‘throwing paper’ were changed to ‘throwing paperweights’.”
Said Jain, “We only raised our voice against the garden department’s illegal work. We never attacked the officer, as claimed in the FIR. I threw papers, not a paperweight. This was all just done to prevent releasing tree felling information under RTI a conspiracy between PMC officials and Deccan police.”
Additional public prosecutor P S Agarwal, representing the prosecution, confirmed, “The two FIRs revealed over-writing of details. Now, the lower court has the jurisdiction to conduct a retrial and re-consider its earlier judgment.”
Deputy commissioner of police (zone I) Sudhir Hiremath could not be contacted despite repeated attempts. On condition of anonymity, an officer from Deccan police told Mirror, “The then inspector incharge, Manohar Joshi, had signed both FIRs. They only came to know about the anomalies after the hearing in the sessions court.”