Sunil Shivdasani, Hindustan Times,Mumbai, January 24, 2007
With Pravin Mahajan pleading not guilty to the charges of murdering his brother and BJP general secretary Pramod Mahajan, police will face an uphill task to prove that he committed the crime because of alleged shoddy investigations.
It has now come to light from the evidence placed before the court that Worli police had failed to preserve the fingerprints of Pravin when he surrendered himself along with the revolver with which he had shot at his brother.
The fingerprints of Pravin would have been a vital piece of evidence particularly when the accused is denying having killed the BJP leader and more so in the absence of eye witnesses.
"It is true that fingerprints would have been crucial piece of evidence but have otherwise have a strong case against Pravin," says special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam".
The compact disc (CD), placed by Worli police before the trial court, which has captured the moments of Pravin surrendering before police clearly bears out that the fingerprints of Pravin were destroyed due to negligence and careless attitude of the policemen.
In the CD, Pravin is seeing entering the police station and speaking to a constable while placing his revolver in front of him at the table. After hearing Pravin, the constable takes the revolver with his naked hands.
However, the talk between Pravin and the constable is not audible as the CD only filmed the scene but does not have the audio content.
On seeking the revolver the constable immediately picked up the weapon used in the crime with his naked hands and called a police inspector who also took the revolver from his junior, again with his bare hands.
Thus, in the process, the fingerprints of Pravin, which were on the revolver, were wiped out.
This alleged negligence on the part of police has put the investigators in a tight spot and it will be difficult for police to prove its case which initially appeared to be "a open and a shut case" with Pravin admitting to his guilt in the police station on April 22 after he had shot at his brother.
Moreover it is the case of police that Rekha Mahajan, widow of Pramod and a domestic help had seen Pravin holding a revolver in front of Pramod but they had not witnessed the firing. Therefore police only have circumstantial evidence to rely upon and it would not be easy for them to prove their case.
On hearing gunshots Rekha and her servant rushed from kitchen of their house to the living room where the duo saw Pravin holding the gun (by that time he had allegedly fired at the target). At best they could be described as prime witnesses but not eye witnesses, legal sources told Hindustan Times.
Prosecutor Nikam justified the police action of picking up revolver with bare hands saying their prime concern at the relevant time was to dispossess the accused with the weapon as they feared that he may fire again on any other target.
He said in such cases the immediate duty of police is to snatch the weapon from a criminal. However, he admitted that fingerprints of Pravin would have helped the prosecution in proving the case as it was a vital piece of evidence.
Pravin had seriously injured his brother on April 22 after he fired at him from a point blank range at the latter's house in Worli and immediately walked away to surrender before Worli police station, close to the residence of Mahajan. Pramod was rushed to Hinduja hospital where he succumbed to his injuries 12 days later. Pravin has been taken into custody and charges framed against him. The prosecution has cited 58 witnesses, including Rekha and Rahul, wife and son respectively of the deceased.