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'Encounter specialist' acquitted of murder, 21 others convicted
Saturday July 6, 2013 0:17 AM, IANS

A court here Friday acquitted former "encounter specialist" and dismissed Mumbai cop Pradeep Sharma of all charges in the 2006 alleged murder of gangster Ram Narayan Gupta in a staged gunfight but convicted 21 others, including 14 policemen.

Pradeep Suryawanshi, who was leading the police team when Gupta was killed Nov 11, 2006, was found guilty of murder by Sessions Judge V.D. Jadhwar.

Another 20, including 13 policemen, were also convicted on various charges.

The sentence is expected to be pronounced by the court Monday.

According to the prosecution, a police team had picked up Gupta alias Lakhan Bhaiyya and an associate Anil Bheda from Vashi in Navi Mumbai, on suspicion that they were members of the absconding mafia don Chhota Rajan Nikhalje's gang.

Later that day, Gupta was gunned down near the Nana-Nani Park in Versova in north-west Mumbai, and the incident was passed off as a gunfight.

Four days later, Gupta's brother and lawyer Ramprasad Gupta filed a plea in the Bombay High Court alleging that it was a staged gunfight and actually a case of "brutal murder".

The sole eyewitness to the entire incident Bheda, who was initially detained by the D.N. Nagar Police, was later taken to Kolhapur and then brought to Mumbai where he remained in lockup for a month.

In February 2008, the Bombay High Court ordered a magisterial probe into Gupta's killing.

In September 2009, the magistrate concluded that it was a "cold blooded murder" in his report to the high court which set up a Special Investigation Team to probe the case.

The SIT nabbed Sharma, the prime accused in the case on Jan 8, 2010, besides 21 others involved in the Gupta killing.

Meanwhile, on March 13, 2011, Bheda went missing from his home in Vashi, just four days before his scheduled court deposition.

His wife moved a habeas corpus petition in the high court, alleging that he had been kidnapped and may have been killed.

Her fears were proved true two months later when the Navi Mumbai Police recovered an unidentified decomposed body in June and DNA tests finally confirmed it was of the missing Bheda.

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