Durban - Durban socialite and businessman, Rajiv Narandas, suffered a blow in his murder trial on Wednesday, after his application for discharge on the grounds of a lack of evidence was rejected.
Narandas is accused of murdering Veenand Singh, 32, who was stabbed in the heart during a fracas at 4.30am in the car park of the Shoukara nightclub in Sandton on July 13, 2008.
He has pleaded not guilty, and is on R5 000 bail in a case that has dragged on for four years and been beleaguered by more than 20 postponements.
The application was based on Narandas’s lawyer, advocate Mannie Witz’s contention that evidence by a state witness, Paroshen Soorian (who was in Singh’s group that night), was contradictory and actually defeated the State’s case, rendering it impotent in securing a conviction.
Magistrate Reiner Boshoff disagreed, saying he’d studied all the evidence, and concluded:
“There is direct evidence linking you [Narandas] to the crime.”
“Yes, there are discrepancies in the evidence, but not of a nature that your application should succeed,” he said.
The next hearing has been set for later this year.
Witz advised the court, however, that he intended calling a last witness, forensic pathologist Dr Reggie Perumal, who would provide expert medical insight into Singh’s fatal wound.
Medical evidence has already been led, but Witz said it would be led “for the defence” this time.
He later indicated that it was possible that he would ask Narandas to step forward and testify in his defence.
Narandas, well-dressed in a dark suit with a light blue shirt with a red-checked trimming at the neckline, remained composed in the dock, although the pretty woman accompanying him - identified by a member of the Singh camp as ‘Amritha’ (she and Narandas refused to give her name) - looked disappointed.
Minutes earlier in the car park next to the court, she’d been fixing his tie, and the two looked confident. “I’m ready,” he smiled.
Three members of the Singh family, meanwhile, arrived at the court dressed in black T-shirts that read: ‘Justice for Veenand Singh’.
The spokesman for the group, who identified himself only as ‘Kishor’, said he’d flown from London to be with the family for what they believed would be judgment day.
“There is also a support group in London for the Singhs.
“This case should have been concluded long ago, and we are concerned that somebody is behind the continual delays and evidence going missing,” said Kishor, referring to part of the court records going missing in May, resulting in yet another postponement, but later retrieved by the prosecutor, Adele Barnard.
‘Kishor’ said after the hearing yesterday that Boshoff’s decision to reject Witz’s application was “a step in the right direction”.
“The accused has been walking around freely, even shaking hands with the police as he goes out of court.
“I hope that at the next hearing justice is done, and his conviction is concluded.”
Witz, on the other hand, speaking outside the court, remained upbeat about his defence.
“It’s one of those cases where every party needs to be heard. Ultimately, the State must prove its case beyond reasonable doubt,” he said.
Soorian’s evidence, he reiterated, may still “sink” the State’s case. He added that aside from Dr Perumal, he may call Narandas himself to take the stand.
“We’ll decide later.”
Narandas and his friends allegedly set upon Singh and his group in the car park outside Shoukara nightclub, after there had been jibing and put-downs between the two groups inside.
Soorian, 16 at the time, and his brother Gyendra, 19 at the time, were in Singh’s group along with Singh’s girlfriend, Bashantha Sannasy, and a few others.
Under cross-examination, Soorian admitted he never saw the actual stabbing, as he’d been facing towards Gyendra, who’d been knocked down by another of Narandas’s group, but had seen Narandas fetch a “weapon” from under his car seat, then hold it up above his head.
“I heard from my brother [Gyendra] that [Narandas had] stabbed Veenand,” he said.
The main aggressor until then, Soorian said, was Narandas’s friend, Jenaide Charles, who had approached Singh’s group and said: “Do you know who the f… we are, you c….?”.
Soorian said his brother told him Charles had a “long wooden stick or cane, which held a sword”.
“He was pointing it at us,” Soorian said.
Narandas at this time was standing in a threatening way, with his arms folded, Soorian had told the court.