The defence lawyers in the Kopardi gangrape and murder case have sought permission from the court to examine prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam and five more persons as defence witnesses. Defence lawyers Balasaheb Khopade and Vijayalakshmi Khopade, who represent accused Santosh Bhawal (36), on Thursday submitted six names before Sessions Judge Suvarna Kewale at Ahmednagar court, seeking permission to examine them as defence witnesses.
According to Khopade, the list includes advocate Ujjawal Nikam, former director of YASHADA Ravindra Chavan, government medical officer Dr Datta Thorat, District Collector Abhay Mahajan and Uday Nirgudkar, editor of a Marathi news channel. “We submitted a CD that contains evidence of how the investigation in this case was done under the guidance of Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam. We also submitted copies of letters pertaining to the case, which were submitted by the district collector to the Chief Minister,” said Khopade.
The court has asked Nikam and others to file their response.
However, Nikam termed the move as a “publicity stunt”, saying, “Along with me, the district collector and some others have also been called as witnesses. The court is yet to grant permission to this application by the defence. It is nothing but a publicity stunt.”
A 14-year-old girl was allegedly gangraped and tortured to death at Kopardi village in Karjat taluka of Ahmednagar district on July 13, 2016.
Police said the incident took place at 6.45 pm, while the girl was returning home from her grandfather’s house. When she didn’t come back home, her family started looking for her. The girl’s body was found under a tree in the night and her bicycle was found abandoned near a canal.
Police arrested the first accused Jitendra Shinde alias Pappu (25) from Shrigonda town in Ahmednagar, while the second accused, Santosh Bhawal (36), was arrested from Karjat. The third suspect, Nitin Bhailume (26), was arrested from Pune.
Police said that all three suspects were contract workers working for private companies or at construction sites. They were staying at Kopardi village.
The process of recording the statements of the accused is going on at the Ahmednagar court. The Kopardi incident had sparked widespread protests across Maharashtra.