A sessions court in Dindoshi (Malad, Mumbai) held artist Chintan Upadhyay guilty of criminal conspiracy and abetment of the December 2015 murder of his estranged wife Hema Upadhyay.
Three co-accused in the case were convicted for committing the actual offence of murder and destruction of evidence in the double-murder case of Hema and her lawyer, Haresh Bhambhani.
The sentence is likely to be pronounced on Saturday after hearing arguments on the quantum of punishment.
The three co-accused found guilty of murder were tempo driver Vijay Rajbhar and helpers Pradeep Rajbhar and Shivkumar Rajbhar, who worked with the absconding accused, and art fabricator Vidyadhar Rajbhar.
Chintan, 50, on bail and present in court, was immediately on pronouncement of judgment sent to judicial custody till October 7.
Upadhyay claimed a matrimonial row was used against him and the evidence was fabricated.
The prosecution relied heavily on a judicial confession given by co-accused Pradeep Rajbhar, which implicated Chintan, saying he had hatched the murder conspiracy in Chembur. Chintan, while agreeing he was in Chembur, said the confession was retracted and hence had no evidentiary value. As an alibi, he said he was at a friend’s house, far away from the alleged meeting location.
The other key evidence the prosecution relied on was Vidyadhar Rajbhar’s alleged extra-judicial confession to his mother over a phone call that he had committed the murders at Chintan’s behest.
Chintan’s lawyer, Bharat Manghani, requested the judge for time to make submissions on sentencing aspects.
The court deferred the judgement to Saturday when the defence and prosecution will first argue on quantum.
Hema and her lawyer, Bhambhani, were found murdered on December 12, 2015, with their bodies packed into boxes, which had been dumped in a ditch in Kandivli. The Mumbai police had registered a case of double murder.
Chintan, who has been protesting his innocence, was arrested on December 22 of that year and granted bail in 2021 by SC over the prolonged incarceration. The fifth and allegedly key accused, Vidyadhar Rajbhar, was never arrested. One co-accused, a minor at the time of the crime, is being tried separately.
After all four accused on trial were held guilty, public prosecutor Vaibhav Bagade told media persons, “I will be seeking maximum punishment of death since one of the victims was a lawyer.”
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