Since the time the hearing into the J Dey murder case began yesterday morning, the Mumbai City Civil and Sessions court's room no. 57 appeared a tense place.
There was a lull as several expected a favorable verdict in a case that took seven long years for justice to be finally delivered. Meanwhile the court room seemed to suggest a sense of happiness and relief, mainly among the cops, who were jubilant that the guilty had been brought to book and lengthy investigation efforts had secured the desired result.
The atmosphere outside the courtroom was sombre with family members, relatives and friends of the accused wearing a worrisome look on their faces in the hope that Special sessions and MCOCA court judge Sameer Adkar would award the least quantum of punishment. While some could not stop sobbing, some appeared blank, not knowing what to expect, as if seemingly lost.
In the morning session, where the hearing began post 11:00 am, the accused were brought to the court amidst heavy police cover and at the premises too security had been heightened. The quantum had to be delayed to the second session, where the verdict was pronounced after 4:30 pm. The slain journalist's and the special investigations teams editor's family had demanded the strictest punishment or even award the accused death penalty.
After the verdict was announced, there were jubilant cops and even more, the happy family and advocate of Jigna Vora, key accused in the case. However, Vora and another accused Paulson Joseph were acquitted by the court due to lack of evidence. Vora seemed ecstatic at the court's decision after having suffered a horrific ordeal for these many years after her name cropped up for conspiring against Dey, having led to his death. The moment it was pronounced that Vora, a scribe herself, had no involvement and had been absolved of all charges, there was a sense of happiness (one of their own had been declared free after all) and urgency amongst the mediapersons, who exited the court in a jiffy to 'tweet' about the important update and in a bid to get their own respective 'breaking news'.
Nine of eleven accused (including Chhota Rajan) were awarded life term and were convicted under the Mahharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), criminal conspiracy and murder. Rajan, who is currently lodged at the Tihar jail, made his presence available for the hearing via video conferencing.
l In the first major conviction for gangster Rajendra Nikhalje alias Chhota Rajan, the court found him guilty in the murder case.
In one of the most keenly followed and tracked cases, media frenzy was bound to be a prominent feature, as several OB vans and members of the 'press' thronged to cover the D-Dey judgment. While advocates gave bytes to the media, some were also chided by cops on duty, who lambasted them for making a 'lot of noise' outside the courtroom, causing disturbance.
Dey, a veteran crime journalist, was shot dead in broad daylight at Powai by Rajan's men in June 2011. The police believe that Rajan got him bumped off as he suspected that the journalist was working for his sworn nemesis, Dawood Ibrahim. Vora was accused of instigating Rajan against Dey owing to a professional rivalry.