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Praveen guilty of murder but motive still a mystery

Mumbai, Dec. 17: Praveen Mahajan killed Pramod Mahajan but nobody yet knows why.

A court today convicted Praveen, 48, of shooting his elder brother dead but cited no motive and deferred the sentencing till tomorrow.

Judge Srihari Davare rejected the prosecution’s claim that the BJP leader was killed for money, and also ruled out a heat-of-the-moment theory by insisting the murder was “pre-planned”.

The question of motive had tormented a bleeding Pramod, 55, too, while he was being rushed to hospital minutes after the shooting at his Worli flat on April 22 morning last year.

“What was my fault that Praveen fired at me?” he had asked brother-in-law Gopinath Munde in what the judge decided to accept as his dying declaration.

Pramod’s question and two eyewitness accounts persuaded the judge that Praveen was guilty of murder as well as trespass with intention to commit an offence.

The accused, dressed in white kurta-pyjama, heard the verdict out calmly but his wife Sarangi, accompanied by her two brothers, broke down.

“I have been hearing the dictation of (the) judgment (in the court) for the last 10 days. I am not surprised,” Praveen said.

After the verdict, the couple spent nearly two-and-a-half hours in the sessions court, eating lunch and finishing the paperwork. Sarangi said she would challenge the judgment in Bombay High Court.

The eyewitness accounts came from Pramod’s wife Rekha and domestic hand Mahesh Wankhede. Wankhede told the court he had heard all the three gunshots; Rekha testified to having seen Praveen fire the third bullet.

Davare told a packed fifth-floor courtroom that the evidence taken together led to the “irresistible conclusion that the accused… is guilty”.

The court, however, rejected the prosecution claim that Praveen killed Pramod because the BJP leader had turned down a demand for Rs 1 crore from him.

Davare mentioned that Rekha’s original statement didn’t contain this allegation, which emerged only during her testimony last April, a year after the murder.

As evidence of Praveen’s prior intention to kill, the court cited a threatening text message sent from his mobile phone seven days before the murder. The judge shot down the claim by defence witnesses Sarangi and P. Harikrishnan, a techie from Pune, that the message was doctored.

Davare also noted that after the shooting, Praveen did not try to get Pramod medical aid and instead drove off to surrender to police. The elder brother died in hospital 11 days later.

Asked about the prosecution’s failure to establish motive, special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said: “It makes no difference since this case rests largely on evidence from eyewitnesses. The establishment of motive is important when a case is based on circumstantial evidence.”

Sarangi’s brother Prasad Pulliwar said: “We have been trying to prepare Sarangi and her two children for the worst. The judgment has come as a shock for the entire family.”

Aurangabad-based Prakash Mahajan, the third brother, said: “I have already lost Pramod and now I will be losing Praveen. What more I can say? What he (Praveen) has done is unpardonable. He deserves to be punished.”

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