J Dey murder: Chhota Rajan to spend rest of his life in Tihar jail; updates

File picture of fugitive Rajendra Sadashiv Nikalje, known in India as "Chhota Rajan," centre, being escorted by police officers before being taken to Bali airport to be deported. Photo: AP/PTI
A Special Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) court on Wednesday sentenced to life imprisonment mafia don Rajendra S. Nikhalje alias Chhota Rajan and eight others for the 2011 killing of veteran journalist J. Dey. Asked for his reaction, Chhota Rajan remarked: "Theek hai." (It's okay). "This is the first time the mafia don has been convicted for life imprisonment in a major case like murder," Special Public Prosecutor Pradep Gharat told IANS. Last year, he was sentenced to seven years in jail for passport forgery. The verdict was pronounced by Special Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) Court judge Sameer Adkar after hours of heated arguments between Gharat and defence lawyers after the criminals were held guilty in the morning.

The 56-year old Dey, a well-known crime reporter of Mumbai, worked as Editor (Investigations) with Mid-Day when he was gunned down on June 11, 2011 near his residence in suburban Powai. He had authored two books: "Khallas: An A to Z Guide to the Underworld" and "Zero Dial: The Dangerous World of Informers" and was finalizing a third, "Chindi: Rags to Riches". In the upcoming book, he had reportedly portrayed the mafia don as 'Chindi' (petty) criminal, which apparently irked Chhota Rajan.

"Dey was a journalist. He represented the fourth pillar of Democracy. This case should be considered as the 'rarest of rare'. A strong message needs to be sent out," argued Gharat while demanding capital punishment for the accused. After the verdict, Special Judge Adkar turned to Chhota Rajan, 59, who was produced in a video-conference from Delhi's Tihar Central Jail, and said: "You will be spending your entire life in jail. Do you have anything to say?" After a moment, without any visible emotion, the gangster replied softly: "Theek hai." (It's okay). The courtroom was packed.

The accused were booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code pertaining to murder (302), criminal conspiracy (120(b)) and destruction of evidence (204), and under provisions of the stringent MCOCA and the Arms Act.

Here are the top ten developments in the J Dey murder case verdict and sentencing:

Who is Chhota Rajan?

Rajendra Sadashiv Nikhalje, better known by his gangster name Chhota Rajan, was born to a mill worker in Mumbai and started as a petty criminal in 1980s. Soon he came in contact with Rajan Nair (his mentor who was also known as Bada Rajan), a thief and local gang leader in Chembur, and after his murder, took over the reins of his gang and changed his name to Chhota Rajan.

He later came in contact with Dawood Ibrahim and Arun Gawli and the three ruled Mumbai's underworld. Rajan soon became Dawood's trusted lieutenant and after the don fled to Dubai to evade arrest in smuggling cases, he took charge of Mumbai affairs. But Rajan too had to flee to Dubai in 1988 and operated out of there. The cracks in Dawood-Rajan friendship appeared after the 1993 Mumbai blasts, reportedly over communal angle. Rajan then formed his own gang and left Dubai. His areas of operations were Malaysia and Bangkok. The gangster also held considerable clout in Mumbai, especially areas in and around Chembur.

1) Compensation of Rs 5 lakh to be paid to deceased's sister: The special Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) court in Mumbai has ordered a compensation of Rs 5 lakh be given to the sister of deceased journalist Jyotirmay Dey. The court said the amount will be paid from the fines collected by the convicts.

2) Chhota Rajan sentenced for life: MCOCA court on Wednesday sentenced gangster Chhota Rajan and seven others to life imprisonment in journalist Jyotirmay Dey murder case.

Chhota Rajan, 8 others convicted in J Dey murder case: Gangster Chhota Rajan and eight others were convicted by a Special MCOCA court in Mumbai for killing senior journalist Jyotirmoy Dey in 2011. This is the first major conviction for Rajan since he was deported to India following his arrest at Bali airport in Indonesia in 2015. Earlier last year, Rajan was convicted by a court in Delhi and sentenced to seven years imprisonment in a case of fake passports.

Besides Rajan, the others convicted in the case are Satish Kaliya, Anil Waghmode, Abhijit Shinde, Nilesh Shendge, Arun Dake, Mangesh Agawane, Sachin Gaikwad, and Deepak Sisodia.

4) What did Rajan have to say about the outcome? When the judge read out the verdict and asked the gangster if he wanted to say anything, Rajan, who was witnessing the proceedings from New Delhi's Tihar jail via video conferencing, said "theek hai" (alright).

5) Jigna Vora, Paulson Joseph acquitted: A co-accused, journalist Jigna Vora, who was charged with conspiracy, has been acquitted in the case. Vora broke down in the court soon after her acquittal was announced by the judge. 

According to the prosecution, Vora had been in constant touch with Rajan before the incident. The CBI charge sheet claimed that Vora complained to Rajan about Dey, and instigated him to execute the conspiracy to kill him. She was out on bail during the pendency of the trial.

The judge also acquitted Paulson Joseph, who was accused of handling the financial operations concerned with the conspiracy.

6) Prosecution says court must send out 'strong message' while sentencing: Prosecutor Pradeep Gharat, however, argued that 'rarest of rare' or not, the fact remained that the nine persons had been convicted under Section 302 and faced either the death penalty or life imprisonment. He said the court, while sentencing them, must keep in mind that it needed to send out a "strong message". 

"The victim was a journalist and represented the fourth pillar of our democracy. A journalist was attacked for doing his job, and a stringent note must be taken of this fact by the court. A strong message needs to be sent out to the public," Gharat said.

April 3, 2018: The defence completes its arguments. The special MCOCA court reserves its judgement in case till May 2.

April 2, 2018: The court records Rajan's final statement under section 313 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). Rajan produced before the court from Tihar jail via video conference link.

February 22, 2018: The prosecution completes its final arguments.

August 31, 2017: The special MCOCA court frames charges against Rajan.

November 7, 2016: Dey's wife Shubha Sharma deposes before the court, tells he was tensed since a week before the killing.

January 5, 2016: The case transferred to the CBI.

October 25, 2015: Rajan arrested at Bali in Indonesia and deported to India. Later, lodged at Tihar Jail in Delhi.

June 8, 2015: The court frames charges against 11 accused under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections of 120(b) (criminal conspiracy), 302 (murder) and 34 (common intention), along with relevant provisions of the MCOCA and the Arms Act.

April 10, 2015: Asrani dies in jail after prolonged illness.

July 27, 2012: Vora gets bail.

February 21, 2012: A supplementary charge sheet filed against Vora.

December 3, 2011: The Crime Branch files charge sheet in the case. Two persons - Chhota Rajan and Nayansingh Bisht - shown as wanted accused.

November 25, 2011: Journalist Jigna Vora arrested on charges of instigating gangster Chhota Rajan to plan the killing.

July 7, 2011: Provisions of the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) invoked against the accused.

June 27, 2011: Mumbai Crime Branch arrests ten people, including the shooter, Satish Kaliya, and others Abhijit Shinde, Arun Dake, Sachin Gaikwad, Anil Waghmode, Nilesh Shendge and Mangesh Agawane, Vinod Asrani, Deepak Sisodia and Paulson Joseph.

June 11, 2011: Journalist Jyotirmoy Dey (56) shot dead near Hiranandani Gardens in suburban Powai. A case of murder filed at the Powai police station and the probe transferred to the Crime Branch.

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