The Bombay High Court on Monday refused pre-arrest bail to BJP MLA Nitesh Rane, son of Union Minister Narayan Rane, in connection with an attempt to murder case filed against him in Sindhudurg district last month. The court also rejected the anticipatory bail plea of co-accused Sandesh alias Gotya Sawant. However, it allowed pre-arrest bail to another accused, Manish Dalvi.
Granting relief from arrest to Dalvi, the bench said that he will have to surrender his passport and that he cannot leave Sindhudurg district till further orders. He will also have to visit the investigating officer on January 20, 21 and 22.
A single-judge bench of Justice C V Bhadang had concluded the hearing on January 13 and had reserved its verdict.
The Maharashtra Police on Thursday continued its oral assurance that it would not take any coercive action against Nitesh till Monday.
The case against Nitesh relates to an alleged road rage incident on December 18, last year, The complainant, 44-year-old Santosh Parab, claimed that he an Innova car without a number plate hit his bike. Parab alleged that he was assaulted by the car occupants and heard one of them tell another person that they “should inform Gotya Sawant and Nitesh Rane”.
Nitesh moved the Bombay High Court after a Sindhudurg special judge on December 30, 2021, rejected his pre-arrest bail plea, in which he claimed he had been booked “out of political rivalry”.
Nitesh told HC that the FIR had been registered for preventing his participation in the Sindhudurg District Co-operative Bank elections, which were to be held on December 30, 2021. “This whole thing is a fallout of the catcalling incident that took place outside the Vidhan Bhawan on December 23. At that time, Shiv Sena leaders said Nitesh Rane would be taught a lesson,” his counsel had argued.
On Thursday, Special Public Prosecutor Sudeep Pasbola opposed the anticipatory bail plea saying Nitesh is the “mastermind” in the case and trying to influence witnesses. “The state requires further custodial interrogation to establish the trail of money used to hire the alleged assailants for the assault,” Pasbola said. “Nitesh Rane cleverly did not contact his close confidant Sachin Satpute from his phone but did so from the phone of his personal assistant Rakesh Parab’s phone. It is not the first such case Nitesh Rane is involved in. There are a total six cases against him…the assailants were hired in Pune… and brought to Kankavli. The same modus operandi was used in other cases too.”
The prosecutor rejected Nitesh’s claims of a ‘political vendetta’, saying had it been the case the BJP MLA could have been arrested after the December 23 ‘catcalling’ incident. “The conspiracy was unearthed only after the arrest of the accused Sachin Satpute, after which (Nitesh) Rane apprehended arrest,” Pasbola argued. The alleged murder attempt happened on December 18 last year, Nitesh was issued notice on December 21, and his statement was recorded on December 24.
Nitesh’s counsel, Niteen Pradhan, dismissed the allegations as “a figment of imagination”. He submitted that when the conspiracy was allegedly hatched in a vanity van on August 28, 2021, the bank election date was not announced at all. They were announced on November 26, he added.
The counsel had stated the bank election was hotly contested and that because the bank chairman was a member of the ruling Shiv Sena, many people from outside had arrived in Kankavli. But, he further submitted, this didn’t mean these people were involved in some conspiracy.