The Bombay High Court on Thursday upheld the life imprisonment awarded to convict Abdul Rauf alias Daud Merchant for the sensational daylight murder of music baron and T-Series owner Gulshan Kumar Dua near a temple here 24 years ago.
The court also confirmed the acquittal of TIPS music company co-founder Ramesh Taurani, but set aside the lower court’s order to acquit Merchant’s brother, Abdul Rashid Merchant, and sentenced him to life imprisonment, said the Merchant brothers’ lawyer Satish Maneshinde.
A division bench comprising Justice Sadhana Jadhav and Justice N.R. Borkar has found the Merchant siblings guilty of murder, conspiracy, common intentions, and under the Arms Act.
“The appellant (Abdul Rauf) should not be entitled to remission if any. He has criminal antecedents and continued in similar activities thereafter. In the interest of justice and society at large, the appellant doesn’t deserve any leniency,” the court observed.
The court further noted that soon after the 1997 incident, Abdul Rauf was absconding till his arrest in 2001, and was later released on furlough in 2009 and re-arrested in 2016.
The court’s order came in the Maharashtra government’s appeal through state counsel Prajakta Shinde against Taurani and Abdul Rashid’s acquittal, and Abdul Rauf’s appeal against his conviction and life sentence, which was awarded in April 2002 by the then Sessions Judge M.L. Tahilyani.
It may be recalled that on August 12, 1997, Delhi-based music baron Gulshan Kumar was shot dead with 16 bullets fired at him outside a temple in Juhu in suburban Mumbai, triggering a massive upheaval in Bollywood.
The prosecution contended that the killing was an outcome of business rivalries between Kumar and Taurani, and a rift between Kumar and music director Nadeem Saifi of the erstwhile Nadeem-Shravan duo, and the plot was hatched in Dubai, in the premises of Anees Ibrahim Kaskar, the brother of mafia don Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar.
As part of the differences, Saifi allegedly hired gangster Abu Salem of the Dawood Ibrahim gang to eliminate Kumar, but sneaked away to London in June 1997 and has not returned since. His partner Shravan Rathod died in April 2021.
The killing of Kumar, 40, who ignored death threats against extortion by the mafia, sent terror in Bollywood circles and culminated in a series of mafia attacks on film personalities.
Soon after the sensational murder, the Mumbai Police filed a charge sheet naming 26 accused, of which 15 were arrested and the rest is absconding, while one Mohammed Ali Shaikh had turned approver.
While on furlough in 2009, Abdul Rauf had slipped away to Bangladesh and was rearrested only after his deportation to India. He is currently lodged in the Arthur Road Central Jail here.