The Bombay High Court on Wednesday granted bail to three men accused of murdering Mohsin Shaikh, a 28-year-old techie from Pune, in June 2014. The three accused are allegedly members of the Hindu Rashtra Sena (HRS).
The three men were previously granted bail by the High Court in January last year, following which the victim’s brother, Mubin Shaikh, challenged the bail order in the Supreme Court.
In February this year, the Supreme Court pulled up the Bombay High Court for some of its observations while granting bail, and asked it to decide on the bail pleas afresh.
In its January 2017 order granting bail to Vijay Rajendra Gambhire, Ganesh alias Ranjeet Shankar Yadav and Ajay Dilip Lalge, the High Court had observed that “the fault of the deceased was only that he belonged to another religion. I consider this factor in favour of the applicants/accused”.
The court added that the accused did not have any previous criminal record. “…it appears that in the name of religion, they were provoked and have committed the murder,” the court had observed.
The Supreme Court said the high court may not have intended to hurt the feelings of any community, but its words were “vulnerable to criticism”.
The top court’s order said, “We have no doubt that a court fully conscious of the plural composition of the country, while called upon to deal with rights of various communities, cannot make such observations which may appear to be coloured with a bias for or against a community.”
The Supreme Court said it was “obvious that the fact that the deceased belonged to a certain community cannot be a justification for any assault, much less a murder”.
Lawyer Abhijeet Ashok Desai, representing all three accused, sought parity as 17 out of 21 accused had been granted bail.
“This is a most unfortunate murder of the deceased, Mohsin, who was innocent and a passerby, along with his friend Riyaz, who was an eye witness,” Justice Mridula Bhatkar observed.
Justice Bhatkar mentioned in her order that the trial had been stayed by the high court. “Thus, there is no possibility of commencement of trial in the near future.”
The court also observed, “It is not a pre-designed crime. The accused had no personal vendetta against the deceased, Mohsin. They were provoked by the speech and discussion in the meeting which had taken place just half an hour before the incident.”
The court said, “…the accused can be granted bail by putting them to strict conditions.”
The three accused are among 21 activists, allegedly of the HRS, including their leader Dhanajay Jayram Desai, who were booked in connection with the murder of the software engineer in Hadapsar on June 2, 2014.
The incident had taken place during communal clashes in Pune following the circulation of ‘objectionable’ pictures of the late Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.