Calcutta High Court grants bail to lifer in jail for 20 years
The high court on Wednesday granted bail to a lifer who had been in jail for the past 20 years for allegedly shooting at a jewellery trader, snatching his belongings and killing his driver in 1999.
The division bench of Chief Justice T.B. Radhakrishnan and Justice Arijit Banerjee said the appeal moved by the convict in 2006, which could not be heard by Calcutta High Court in 13 years, would be heard soon.
Around 11pm on August 7, 1999, Bhramar Mahatap, a jewellery trader in Bowbabazar, was returning home after closing his shop. On Central Avenue five men stopped his car. They forced the driver out and shot him. The group then allegedly shoot at the trader and left the area after taking the jewellery and the cash kept inside the car.
The driver had died instantly, while Bhramar escaped death. He was admitted to Calcutta Medical College and Hospital with injuries.
On the basis of a complaint lodged by the trader’s father, Bowbazar police had initiated a probe into the incident and arrested within a month five persons, including Bijoy Das, 22, a resident of Topsia, on charges of committing the crime.
The trial against the accused had started at the Sealdah criminal court and in 2005, the trial court convicted Bijoy and sentenced him to life imprisonment.
Bijoy’s four associates were acquitted by the trial court judge as the charges against them could not be substantiated by the investigators.
In early, 2006, Bijoy moved an appeal before Calcutta High Court to challenge the verdict of Sealdah court. “But because of scarcity of judges and a mammoth number of pending cases, the appeal could not be heard till date,” a court official said.
A fortnight ago, when the appeal came up for hearing before the division bench, Rajdeep Majumdar, counsel appearing for Bijoy, had informed the court that in 2013, after completion of his 14 years’ jail term, his client had approached the state government for remission of his punishment.
“But the state government had turned down Bijoy’s prayer as his appeal against the verdict of the Sealdah court was pending in high court,” Majumdar had told the division bench.
The division bench had then directed the superintendent of Presidency jail to file a report stating about the conduct and behaviour of Bijoy in jail and fixed the case for hearing on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, the report by the jail superintendent was placed before the court.
The superintendent stated that Bijoy was quite “trustworthy” and “his behaviour with the staff and other inmates of jail is very good”.
After going through the report, the division bench directed the state authorities to free Bijoy from jail on bail.
Lifers can seek remission after 14 years in jail.
On August 1, 2018, the director-general of police, Virendra, had submitted a report before Calcutta High Court stating that total 561 lifers were in various jails of Bengal for over 14 years.
In May 2017, the Supreme Court had directed the chief justices of all high courts to take steps to release those in jail for over 14 years as quickly as possible. The issue of overcrowded conditions in jails across the country had prompted the apex country to issue the order.
A PIL was filed in the wake of the apex court order and the then high court Chief Justice had asked the DG to file the report.
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