Several questions are unanswered by the NIA in Antilia Bomb Scare case; Bombay High Court rejects bail to Pradeep Sharma for alleged involvement in Mansukh Hiren murder case

Bombay High Court: In an appeal filed by the appellant under Section 21 of the National Investigation Agency Act, 2008 challenging an order passed by the Special Court (NIA), Greater Mumbai, rejecting his application for bail in connection with Antilia Bomb Scare case and Mansukh Hiren Murder case for the alleged offences punishable under Sections 120B, 201, 302, 364 and 403 of Penal Code, 1860 (`IPC’), Section 25 of the Arms Act and Sections 16, 18 and 20 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2004, a division bench of Revati Mohite Dere and R N Laddha JJ., rejected the prayer for bail for having perused records that points to the complicity of the appellant in the murder of Mansukh Hiren, the real owner of the Scorpio vehicle that was used in the Antilia Bomb Scare case.

The first question that arises for consideration is whether the appellant is involved in the conspiracy with Sachin Waze in planting gelatin sticks in the Scorpio vehicle.

The Court noted that though the charge sheet says Sachin Waze entered a conspiracy `with others to plant gelatin sticks in the Scorpio vehicle, the names of the co-conspirators are curiously not spelled out. It was further remarked that “prima facie, we do not find any material from the NIA charge sheet that the appellant was involved in the parking and planting of the gelatin sticks in the Scorpio vehicle. If this was the NIA's case, why then had they remained silent and not disclosed the same in the charge sheet, is perplexing.”

The Court further noted that NIA even after a detailed investigation, had not charge-sheeted the appellant for the offence pertaining to the Scorpio vehicle, which was laden with gelatin sticks. The Court observed that it was a feeble attempt to connect the appellant with Sachin Waze only when we questioned the NIA, as to whom Sachin Waze had conspired with, in planting of gelatin sticks in the Scorpio vehicle.

The Court recorded that after filing a detailed investigation report, NIA is now trying to link the appellant with the Scorpio vehicle (laden with gelatin sticks), that too, during the submissions, when the NIA was questioned. We are afraid that the NIA has not done in depth investigation with respect to the same i.e. as to whom Sachin Waze had conspired with, for parking the Scorpio vehicle laden with gelatin sticks near a prominent businessman's residence.

Further, the Court remarked that it hopes and trusts that NIA, in right earnest, will investigate this aspect since further investigation under Section 173(8) is pending.

The second issue to delve into is the alleged involvement of the appellant in the murder of Mansukh Hiren, the real owner of the Scorpio vehicle. The Court, after considering the material on record, points to the complicity of the appellant in the murder of Mansukh Hiren. The possibility of the appellant, a retired Police Officer, having clout, and tampering with the witnesses, cannot be ruled out.

Thus, the Court held that this is not a fit case to enlarge the appellant on bail.

[Pradeep Rameshwar Sharma v. National Investigation Agency, 2023 SCC OnLine Bom 187, decided on 23-01-2023]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Mr. Aabad H. Ponda, Sr. Advocate a/w Mr. Subhash Jadhav, Mr. Chandansingh Shekhawat, Mr. Dilip Kumar Rawat, Mr. Yashovardhan Deshmukh and Mr. Prasanna Kumar i/b Mr. Waqar Nasir Pathan for the Appellant

Mr. Anil Singh, Additional Solicitor General a/w Mr. Sandesh Dadasaheb Patil, Mr. Aditya Thakkar, Mr. Chintan Shah and Ms. Savita Sadananda for the Respondent 1-NIA

Mr. J. P. Yagnik, A.P.P for the Respondent 2-State

*Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

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