28, Feb 2006
MEETING CHALLENGE – Best was a tough case, concedes judge
Gigil Varghese Mumbai
AS a child, he wanted to be a bus conductor. He loved the authority with which they could order ticketless passengers off the bus.
Forty-five years later, he used his authority all right, but to convict nine accused in the historic Best Bakery retrial. Even as an indignant nation voiced its dissent after the accused in the Jessica Lal murder case were acquitted, his judgement in the bakery retrial, many say, reinforced faith in the judicial system.
In the initial stages of the retrial, he was inundated with over 250 hate mails, but these failed to deter the 50-year-old sessions judge Abhay Thipsay. Not once did he get perturbed or swayed by the threats, the opinions, advice and reminders he received -some of them reminding him that he was a Hindu, still others pointing fingers at Teesta Setalavad and her motives. After delivering the judgement, Thipsay is learnt to have told his peers that the Best Bakery case was one of the most challenging case in his 18-year career.
Prime witness Zaheera Sheikh’s constant flip-flops led him to issue a notice to her for perjury, something not many judges are known to do. Those who are close to Thipsay say he was angry at the way she ridiculed the system. “Even after having electronic and print evidence of statements made by her, she constantly said she was tutored and misled,”
he is believed to have told colleagues.
A graduate of the New Law College, he started his career as the metropolitan magistrate in the CST railway court, moved over to the Andheri court, the Esplanade Court and later the CBI court. When the retrial in the Best Bakery case started, his security was beefed up, and he has two armed guards posted at his residence and another twenty
during the day outside the court.
Brother of former chess grandmaster Pravin Thipsay, the additional sessions judge too is a formidable chess player, though friends say it is over four years that he has seen a chess board, so immersed he has been in work.
Judge Thipsay’s name figures in the list of international chess players during 1984-85. He has also represented the Mumbai university and state and holds a state certificate for coaching chess aspirants.
Lawyers who have appeared in Judge Thipsay’s court say he believes firmly in the fact that every man is innocent unless proven guilty by a court of law. Friends say Thipsay believes a judge cannot get carried away by public opinion or outrage. He must only pronounce his verdict after he examines the facts and the evidence.
Next on the agenda for Judge Thipsay is the Abu Salem case for the Ajit-Dewani murder case.