PUBLIC prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam has withdrawn from the trial against members of the right wing Hindu Rashtra Sena accused of lynching a 28-year-old man in Pune in 2014. Mohsin Shaikh, who worked in a Pune firm, was killed on his way home after offering prayers at a Masjid on the night of June 2, 2014. His friend, Riyaz Ahmed Mubarak Shendure, was with him when they were targeted, allegedly by Hindu Rashtra Sena members protesting a Facebook post of derogatory pictures of Chhatrapati Shivaji and Bal Thackeray.
Nikam told a sessions court in Pune on Monday that he was withdrawing as public prosecutor in the case and submitted a letter from the Law and Judiciary department to the court. The Maharashtra government’s Law and Judiciary department, through a letter dated May 19, 2017, had acceded to Nikam’s request to be removed from the case and cancelled his appointment as special public prosecutor in the case. “In view of the request by advocate Ujjwal Nikam, seeking cancellation of his appointment as the special public prosecutor for conducting the case pending before the sessions court Pune … the Government of Maharashtra hereby cancels the appointment of advocate Ujjwal Nikam as special public prosecutor with immediate effect,” an order from the Law and Judiciary department said.
Family members of Mohsin and activists who had been fighting the case were shocked over Nikam’s decision to withdraw from the case. “I have been closely observing the case and Nikam sahab had fought this case very effectively so far. It is shocking that he has decided to withdraw from the case. I am at a loss to fathom what could have made him take this decision,” Azhar Tamboli, who is an activist and an intervener in the case, said.
Based on the request of Mohsin Shaikh’s father, the former Congress-led state government had decided to appoint Nikam as a prosecutor in the case in August 2014. Nikam was supposed to prosecute 21 members of the right wing Hindu Rashtra Sena members, including their leader Dhananjay Jayram Desai, alias Bhai, who were arrested for the murder. Interestingly, Desai was being defended by Sanjeev Punalekar, national secretary of the Hindu Vidhidnya Parishad (HVP), which has also been fighting cases for the Sanatan Sanstha.
Over the past year, most of the accused have been granted bail by the Bombay High Court with only five, including the main accused Dhananjay Desai, still in jail. Shaikh’s family said they are shocked by Nikam’s withdrawal from the case. Nikam himself chose to keep mum on why he had decided to withdraw.